African Americans are Disproportionately at Greater Risk for Obesity and Chronic Illnesses

Author: Barbara Kinney, BSN, RN

Physical fitness is imperative to the African American family for many reasons, of which are most important are the increased risk for obesity and chronic disease associated with sedentary lifestyles and improper nutrition. The numbers don't lie and are very alarming! Among adults, 35.9% of all adults are obese! However, in the African American community obesity is a whopping 47.8% and more than 75% are at a minimum overweight. Needless to say, there is a huge disparity among African American adults when it comes to obesity and health needs and they are substantially at higher risk for chronic illnesses and death. Among the 47.8% of African American, women are grossly disproportionately obese with 37.1% of African American men compared to 56.6% of African American women being obese. Comparably, rates of obesity for White women is at 32.8%.

Why is this important? Obesity is the number one cause of chronic illness and death, including heart disease, diabetes type 2, and cancers. The rates of heart disease and stroke are twice as high among African Americans than Whites. More than 80% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight and African Americans are twice as likely compared to Whites to have diabetes. 

We need to get moving and we must make sure we set an example of healthiness and fitness for the next generation. If you are like me, you have goals and aspirations to attend to. This means you don't have time to worry about being ill or sick. Isn't it easier to prevent chronic disease? The easiest way to prevent health problems is to engage in physical activity and eat a balanced diet. Obviously, some illnesses are not preventable and some things we cannot prevent. However, the majority of obesity cases are a result of inactivity and improper nutrition and the majority of chronic disease is a result of preventable obesity. Do you want to wait until you are fighting chronic illness to take care of yourself or do you want to prevent unnecessary illness? You decide.