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There are persistent disparities in all-cause mortality between Blacks and Whites in the United States. Black Americans also carry the greatest burden of morbidity from different diseases of aging including heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Health disparities research, and particularly race/ethnic comparison studies of physical health and aging, have consistently positioned Black health in frameworks of disadvantage, suggesting that regardless of the outcome, Black people are in worse states of health and well-being relative to Whites. Yet, extensive evidence suggests that there is significant within-group variability in the aging process among Black older adults. The use of biological, physical performance, and genomic data in survey settings offer new tools and insights to interrogate heterogeneity in Black health. This chapter examines indicators of biological, physical performance, and genetic markers of aging among a national sample of Black Americans ages 54+ years with the aim of addressing two questions about heterogeneity among Black older adults: (a) How do these measures vary by age and gender among Black older adults? (b) Which indicators predict health and mortality among Black older adults? The results indicate that biological, physical performance, and genomic measures of health, generally, have more variation than simple yes or no measures of a disease, condition, or diagnosis among Black older adults, providing counternarratives to the disadvantage frameworks that dominate characterizations of Black health and aging. However, bioethical challenges limit the utility of biomarkers, physical performance, and genomics measures for Black populations.
Annual Review of Gerontology & Geriatrics – Springer Publishing
Published: Feb 1, 2022
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