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Written by Nikki Igbo of NikIgbo.com

On Tuesday, the CDC reported that Blacks as a group are living longer with their death rate declining by 25 percent from 1999 to 2015. Life expectancy for Blacks, however, is still four years less than it is for Whites.

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Factors contributing to improvements in causes of death include a dramatic drop in HIV deaths among 18-49 year olds during the period between 1999 and 2015 and complete closure of the racial death rate gap from heart disease and other causes of death among Blacks who are 65+. Other positive contributing factors include overall improvement of health in the Black population, early health interventions, and earlier diagnosis and treatment of those diseases which lead to death among African Americans.

Despite improvements to African American overall death rate, Blacks in their 20s, 30s and 40s are still more likely to die from health issues usually associated with older Whites. Those health issues include obesity, heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure.

According to StateofObesity.org, African American adults are nearly 1.5 times as likely to be obese compared with White adults and from 1999 to 2012, 35.1 percent of African American children ages 2 to 19 were overweight, compared with 28.5 percent of White children.

The American Heart Association reports that the prevalence of high blood pressure in African-Americans is the highest in the world and tends to develop earlier in life. The organization also notes that African Americans are more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic Whites.

Death rates as a result of homicides did not change for Blacks for the years included in the CDC study. And Blacks are still 7-9 more times likely to die from HIV. Social issues contributing to Black death rates include poverty, lower education attainment, lower home ownership rates and higher rates of unemployment as compared to Whites.

However, all of these risks can be improved upon with a combination of lifestyle changes and community cooperation. CDC experts indicate that prevention measures such as tobacco cessation, healthy eating, regular exercise, disease screenings and using medication as directed by medical professionals are personal steps one can take. Focusing on diet quality by snacking wisely, watching portions on carb-heavy foods such as pasta and rice, and limiting red meat in favor of chicken or fish makes a difference. Incorporating vegetables into each meal and drinking water is also important.

Controlling blood pressure means checking blood pressure regularly, reducing salt intake and finding the right medication to address specific needs. Diabetes is also treatable and preventable through regular exercise which strengthens the cardiovascular system and burns extra calories. Just 30 minutes of walking each day can make a world of difference. As for addressing and preventing HIV, safer sex practices and getting tested is integral.

On a community level, it is recommended that both public health agencies and relevant community organizations stay the course with programs that have proved successful in promoting healthier outcomes. Partnerships with educational, business, housing and transportation are also integral to helping Black citizens obtain and retain access to those services that can improve health for all ages.

Are you surprised by these results? Share your reaction in the comments
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Nikki Igbo is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and political junkie. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Political Science from California State University at Fullerton and a Masters in Fine Arts of Writing at Savannah College of Art and Design. When not staring in disbelief at the antics unfolding on CSPAN, she enjoys philosophical arguments with her husband, 70's era music and any excuse to craft with glitter. Feel free to check out her freelance services at nikigbo.com and stalk her on twitter @nikigbo or Instagram at @nikigbo.

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