White Women and Respiratory Disease

*After deciding on two different health disparities before respiratory disease I came across an article that changed my mind.  It showed the graphs seen above and as you can see, respiratory disease is much more prevalent in white women than any other social race.  Respiratory disease in itself can be any number of different diseases ranging from emphysema to asthma to COPD.  However, I would like to focus mainly on one disease that would fall under the large umbrella that is respiratory disease. 

Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is a serious disease that can cause the lungs to be left vulnerable to attack by an enzyme called neutrophil elastase. Neutrophil elastase is produced by white blood cells when an infection or other irritants are introduced to the lungs.  This enzyme will digest damaged tissue in the lungs and is needed in small amounts.  Alpha-1 antitrypsin is used to protect the lungs from unnecessary attack from neutrophil elastase.2 

This deficiency is an autosomal recessive disorder.  In other words, the patient with the disease must have inherited the recessive trait from both their mother and father.  Also, the recessive trait is carried more in whites than in persons of other social races causing the increased prevalence in whites.

*Race, genetics, and health are greatly interlocked and affect each other.  Genetics, between races are not substantial enough to divide the world into different races.  Race, however, is more of a social term.  With that said, the main differences in genetics between races are that of skin color, hair color, etc.  Skin color was determined thousands of years ago due to the location in which humans lived in reference to the equator.  At the equator the UV and UVD rays are stronger causing darker skin pigmentation.  This helps to block out the harmful UV rays of the sun and only needs to allow a small amount of UVD rays for the production of Vitamin D in skin.  However, the further from the equator the lighter the skin color would be.  This was due to the fact that UVD rays are strong enough for Vitamin D production in skin only a small portion of the year.  Also, the UV rays are less intense allowing lighter skin colors. 

Health in different races is dependent on many more things than just race and genetics.  The stresses imposed on different racial groups by the majority causes health issues; especially when this stress is constant.  Also, the environment in which persons live can affect health.  When the environment does not allow for healthy food, or adequate income for life, health can deteriorate for any person of any race. This can all be seen in the Unnatural Causes video “Place Matters” and is discussed in this week’s Lecture 1.


 1.  National Heart Lung and Blood Institute People Science Health

        2011 Fact Book. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.  

        http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/about/factbook/chapter4.htm#4_5, accessed July 12, 2012


2.  Learn Genetics Genetic Science Learning Center

         Genetic Science Learning Center, “Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency,”     

         Learn.Genetics, 31 December 1969,      

         http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/disorders/whataregd/a1ad/, accessed July 12,


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