What's your health heritage?

Created date

August 25th, 2009
You probably know your individual health history and you might know your family s health history, but do you know your ethnic group s history?


Who:People with origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. Health status:African-Americans are nearly two times as likely to have a stroke or be diagnosed with diabetes, with the highest incidence of diabetes occurring between 65 and 75 years of age. African-American men are more than twice as likely as whites to die from prostate cancer and are more likely to have new cases of lung and prostate cancer. Fast facts:The Jackson Heart Study is investigating the genetic (inherited) factors that affect high blood pressure, diabetes, and other diseases in African-Americans. DNA will be analyzed for thousands of differences among people that may affect their health.

American Indian/Alaskan Native

Who: Those with origins in any of the original people of North and South America (including Central America) who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment. Health status: American Indian/Alaskan Native adults are 60% more likely to have a stroke than their white adult counterparts. They are also 2.3 times as likely as white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes and 1.6 times as likely to be obese. Fast facts: As part of the Genetics of Coronary Artery Disease in Alaskan Natives study, researchers found Alaskan Natives have a low prevalence of type 2 diabetes but a high prevalence of impaired fasting glucose, which indicates that diabetes may become increasingly problematic in this group.

Asian-American/Pacific Islander

Who: Those with origins in any of the original people of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent. Health status: Cancer is the number-one cause of death for Asians and Pacific Islanders. Asian-American men suffer from stomach cancer twice as often as white men. Compared with non-Hispanic whites, Asians and Pacific Islanders are 2.4 times more likely to die from chronic liver disease. Fast facts: A recent study found many people of East Asian descent possess an enzyme deficiency that causes their skin to redden, or flush, when they drink alcohol. Scientists now caution that heavy alcohol consumption greatly increases the risk for esophageal cancer among such individuals. The flushing response is a clinically useful biomarker of genetic susceptibility to esophageal cancer risk from alcohol.


Who:People of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin. Health status:Some of the leading causes of illness and death among Hispanics include heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries (accidents), stroke, and diabetes. Hispanic women are 2.2 times more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than non-Hispanic white women. Fast facts:Latinos living in the U.S. have higher rates of eye disease and visual impairments compared with other ethnic groups. The Los Angeles Latino Eye Study found high rates of diabetic retinopathy (an eye complication of diabetes) and open-angle glaucoma (a disease that damages the optic nerve).

Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander

Who: Those with origins in the original people of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. Health status:The leading causes of death include cancer, heart disease, unintentional injuries, stroke, and diabetes. For Pacific Islanders, cancer is the number-one cause of death. Fast facts:There is growing evidence that Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are one of the highest-risk populations for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.


Who:Those with origins in any of the original people of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. Health status:The leading causes of death include heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, unintentional injuries, Alzheimer s disease, diabetes, influenza, pneumonia, nephritis, nephritic syndrome, nephrosis (conditions related to the kidney), and suicide. Fast facts:Whites experience many of the same health problems as other groups but have a disproportionately high prevalence of hypertension (high blood pressure) and obesity.

Talk to your doctor

Being a member of any particular ethnic group does not automatically predispose you to certain health conditions. Your family history and personal health status, however, are very important indicators. Talk to your doctor about which conditions run in your family. He or she can then help you determine which health screenings you should have and which lifestyle changes may help you preserve or improve your overall health. Source for above groups: Centers for Disease Control s Office of Minority Health & Health Disparities