Depression is a dirty word in the black community because what most African-Americans know about mental disorders is misinformation or wrong. Nevertheless, twenty million Americans suffer depression; including almost two million African-American men. The plain fact is African-American men by far suffer the worst health of any racial group in the United States and have the highest rates of hypertension (high blood pressure) of anyone on the planet. Black men live seven years less than all other racial groups in the United States and experience disproportionately higher death rates in all major death categories than either sex, regardless of race.
Nearly two million black men suffer the effects of depression each year in the United States; a disease worsens chronic health problems common in the African-American community like heart ailments and diabetes. Despite making up only 12% of the population, African-Americans account for 25% of the mental health needs in the United States. Doctors know depression and anxiety disorders can affect heart rhythms, cholesterol levels and even blood clotting, which is bad news for a people with a predisposition for heart disease. Research shows that depression and heart disease not only coexist, but one often leads to the other. Depression makes existing heart conditions especially deadly and may spur development of coronary artery disease.
Heart disease is among the top five causes of death in the African-American community, but it is the leading cause of death for those with diabetes, causing 65% of deaths. Nearly 75% of blacks with diabetes also have high blood pressure, another top killer of African-Americans. Depression and diabetes have an intimate link. Patients with diabetes are twice as likely to experience depression as those without diabetes. In fact, major depressive disorder can even predict the onset of diabetes. Adults with depression and diabetes experience higher recurrence rates and longer disease duration. A six-year study showed depression can contribute to poor glycemic control in African-Americans with type 1 diabetes.
The bad news doesn’t stop there. Diabetes is two to three times as common among African-Americans and depression is two times more common in patients with diabetes than in those without it. In fact, depression is common among people with diabetes, with up to 25% of diabetics developing major depression at some point in their lives. A new study shows that African-Americans with type 1 diabetes who also suffer depression are more likely to experience a more rapid progression of blindness. Recent studies show that African-Americans with diabetes are nearly four times more likely to have a heart attack or suffer a stroke. To complicate matters further, African-American adults are twice as likely to develop severe high blood pressure and 50% more likely to die of stroke than white Americans.
Known as the silent killer, high blood pressure often goes undetected as does depression, which connects directly with diabetes. Depression can disrupt efforts to control high blood pressure in African-American men, as depressed men are five times more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs rather than take their medication, or follow the low-salt diet necessary to control hypertension. The rate of death because of stroke continues to rise in the African-American community, but there is little or no discussion of its connection to depression. Meanwhile, African-Americans are eight times more likely than any other race to develop kidney failure because of hypertension.
Snap Out of It! Depression in African American Men Kills is a personal and public look at the affects of depression in African-American men, how it aggravates diseases in the black community and a personal look at the author’s own battle with the disease and how it led to my heart attack. Each chapter examines how the disease affects African-American men and the ten top causes of death among black men.
About the Author
Don Barbera has been in the world of business for more than 25 years and is the author of several books including, “From Here to There: Improving Interpersonal Communications.” Don is a graduate of PittsburgStateUniversity and holds degrees in Journalism, English and Business Administration. With a doctor for a father, Don naturally gravitated toward health issues and his newspaper writing reflects the tradition.
With nearly 20 years in the print journalism industry, Don is also an experienced writer and instructor, holding adjunct faculty positions at LangstonUniversity, TulsaJunior College as well as the DeVry Institute of Technology. He has written hundreds of newspaper stories and articles, as well as a book of poetry, “Until It Ropes Like Okra.” Non-fiction titles such as “Black and Not Baptist,” are available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com and most major outlets.
Don grew up during segregation, the Civil Rights Movement and integration. The Brown versus the Topeka Board of Education decision ending segregation in public schools happened while he was a kid and lived in Kansas and much of his writing focuses on racism and racial progress in this country today.
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