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Beverly Mahone

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When Will African American Baby Boomers Be Counted

Posted: 08/20/2012 1:41 pm

As an African American baby boomer and journalist, I am always amazed at the studies that come out involving members of my generation. Rarely do I read any health studies or statistics exclusively for older black adults -- unless it has to do with sickle cell anemia. The overwhelming majority of those studies cater to older white adults. But the cold, hard truth is we get the same diseases and we should be studied individually for possible trends in health conditions. Why is it that black women have a higher mortality rate when it comes to breast cancer? Why is it that hot flashes, associated with menopause, seem to increase with age in African American women, while white women report a decrease in menopausal symptoms with age? How does menopause affect black women versus white women when it comes to with heredity, environment, etc. And will someone please stop lumping ALL women in the same BMI (body mass index). We all know black women have a little more meat on their bones and it doesn't always mean we're overweight or unhealthy. It's as if African-American baby boomers don't exist or our issues aren't important enough to be studied at-large.

But, lo and behold, there is a newly released study letting me know that black people who survived strokes caused by bleeding in the brain were more likely than whites to have high blood pressure a year later, thereby increasing their risk for another stroke a year later. The information was released in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

Lead author of the study and assistant professor of neurology at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center in Ann Arbor, Dr. Darin B. Zahuranec, said, "Patients can have a very large impact on blood pressure control by making changes to diet and exercise habits, and with weight loss." Yes, we know that. He also said, "We need to do more for our patients to help them get their blood pressure under control." Yes, we know that too. It's no secret that African-Americans don't always get equal treatment when it comes to healthcare.

The study was conducted at Georgetown University Medical Center and included 162 patients (average age 59, 77 percent black, 53 percent male). While I applaud this research, I have to say a study of 162 patients doesn't even begin to give a clear picture of how serious a problem this could be. But wait a minute. Where are the numbers to indicate just how many African American baby boomers there are? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people who identified as black, either alone or in combination with one or more other races was 42 million in 2010, but the exact number of African American baby boomers is not as easily accessible.

That is part of the problem with the way health studies have been conducted in this country. African American baby boomers are often overlooked when it comes to medical research. But perhaps it's because no one wants to re-live the Tuskegee Experiment.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the US Census Bureau does keep track of how many baby boomers identify as African American.

 

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