Thoughts on the Health of the Black Community...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

...and I mean that literally. While overall awareness of the need to eat healthy and exercise has spread to our community, I don't think we are acting on it. The numbers certainly back that up. A recent press release I read on Marketwatch was very disturbing.

"The top serious health concerns for African Americans are:

Cardiovascular Disease--The #1 killer of African Americans.
Diabetes--3.2 million African Americans have diabetes, yet more than 33% do not know it.
Vitamin D Deficiency--Low Vitamin D has been associated with several types of cancer as well as certain autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus.
HIV/AIDS--Nearly half of the people who get HIV/AIDS are African American, suffering more deaths than any other race.
Cancer--Lung, Breast, Colon, Prostate--African American men are 35% more likely to die from prostate or colon cancer than Caucasian men and African American women are 18% more likely to die from breast cancer because of a genetic predisposition to aggressive forms of cancer"

I don't know what's worse here - the actual rate of diseases, so many not knowing that have an illness, or the disproportionate rates of death. Immunization rates among Blacks and Latinos is not any better. And while the numbers here are high, are they really surprising at this point? We have been getting clear messages for years to clean up our acts regarding our health and get ourselves into better shape but people are not listening.

I recognize that there are deep deficiencies in insurance coverage and health information in minority communities, but the consequences here are too great for us to wait for someone else to come in and clean up this problem. The community has to get pro-active about this and do our part to address this issue.

That starts tonight at the dinner table. I am no stranger to fried chicken, greens, or any of the other stereotypical soul food that people roll out there and I'm not ashamed of that at all. Soul food is indeed a part of our culture. However, there are ways to prepare these foods without all the calories and fat and some things are just going to have be pretty much not eaten all together. It sucks, but our lives are worth it.

I've dropped 13 pounds this month and need to shed about 20 more to get back to my college weight. Like a lot of our people, I carry weight well. Sports and a good work out regimen in the past has allowed me to coast a bit these last few years. That's part of the problem as I think if I looked a bit more obese it would be easier to motivate myself to get back into the gym. The wake-up call has come in the form of a bunch of clothes I can't wear and "baggy" jeans that now look like something Lil' Wayne would wear.

So the dieting and exercise is back in full effect and yes it does suck. I'd much rather eat some fried chicken than baked chicken and I really sick of these stupid protein shakes. But, my blood pressure has dropped and I am fitting back into my clothes so it's all good. I'm definitely no angel on this as I have slipped and headed over to Taco Bell a couple of times, but my eating is so much better than it was.

And I think that's the first step for everyone. Just try to cut back, eat a bit better, and work out a couple of times a week. I honestly feel better and have more energy already. Even if that's not your bag, at least do yourself a favor and get to a doctor for check-ups and immunizations as often as possible. Most areas have free clinics that will provide these services to people who live in the area. Take advantage of these services and do whatever you can to stay healthy.

This is, after all, the only life you will get. Make the most of it.