African Americans suffer from diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and obesity at higher rates than other Americans. One explanation for this is diet, African Americans consume a Western style diet that is meat heavy, high in fats, sugars, and salts. Some studies are beginning to link discrimination and high blood pressure as a factor for African Americans. Health comparisons between African Americans and European Americans demonstrate a gap which favors European Americans. There may be several factors for this but one link may be that European Americans on average do not have to deal with racial discrimination in America. Studies have also linked experiences of racial discrimination with higher occurrences of low self-esteem, high blood pressure, substance abuse, which create a cycle of unhealthy outcomes. Abuse of tobacco and alcohol are factors that increase blood pressure. Studies also demonstrate that when African Americans are given tests about perceived racism, and asked about their coping techniques that study participants who did not have healthy stress responses tended to have increased blood pressure during the tests.
These studies demonstrate that as long as there is a climate of bias and racism then African Americans need to develop healthy responses to counteract the mental and physical damage from continuous exposure to racism and bias. One step that African Americans can do is to find a verbal outlet, a way to discuss the issues being faced. Second, African Americans can develop a strong tie to African and African American culture, which studies has shown reduces the negative psychological effects of bias and racism. The most basic thing to do is to remain healthy by exercising, reducing salt, sugar, and fat intake. Limiting alcohol consumption, and eliminating tobacco use are known factors in preventing high blood pressure. Although the link between high blood pressure and discrimination for African Americans might be indirect it would be safe to say that exposure to discrimination, and bias does not do well for one’s mental and physical health.
Hall, G. C. N., (2010). Multicultural psychology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall/Pearson.