According to researchers, high blood pressure is a major factor accounting for differences in life expectancy between blacks and whites. It's well known that black people live, on average, six years less than white people. And those who did not complete high school are at a similar disadvantage compared to high school graduates. Now, for the first time, a study has identified the major health factors underpinning these differences.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a survey of around 650,000 adults, found that high blood pressure is a major factor, accounting for 16 per cent of the gap in life expectancy between black and white people. HIV/AIDS accounts for 12 per cent of the gap, while diabetes and homicide account for another 9 per cent.
When it comes to different levels of education, the major health factors accounting for the life expectancy gap are all smoking-related - that is, heart attack, lung cancer, heart failure and lung disease. The good news is that all of these factors can be modified. It is easy to detect and treat high blood pressure and, of course, people can try harder to give up smoking. With health policy targetting, lifestyle change and appropriate treatment, gaps in life expectancy could be narrowed.