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Black men’s shorter life span may be attributable in part to the stresses of their position in society.

TERRY DAVIS didn’t know he was having a stroke, much less that, as an African American male, he had a three to four times greater risk of suffering one than a white man. When a transient ischemic attack, or mini-stroke, hit nearly a year ago, he was 49. He woke up early, felt a little slackness on his right side, a little slowness in his speech. He was dizzy and headachy. A professional tennis teacher, he canceled the day’s lessons and, thinking more sleep was what he needed, went back to bed.

His wife, Carrie, still feels guilty that she got a little annoyed with his lethargy that day. “I thought, ‘Snap out of it. Help me get the kids going,’ ” she says.

Davis is fine now. But the stroke scared him for his future, and those of his four sons, ages 8, 16, 18 and 21. These days, they all keep a more watchful eye on one another’s health habits.

Statistically, black males in America are at increased risk for just about every health problem known. African Americans have a shorter life expectancy than any other racial group in America except Native Americans, and black men fare even worse than black women. Some of it can be chalked up to poverty, the most powerful determinant of health, or to lifestyle factors. But even when all those factors are accounted for in studies, the gap stubbornly persists. Now researchers are beginning to examine discrimination itself. Racism, more than race, may be cutting black men down before their time. L.A. Times

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