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Sep. 27th, 2012

Top 10 Health Concerns African American Women Face (Part One)


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In this article we will list some of the top ten health concerns that African American women face.  We will then discuss three at a time, in four different articles, ending with the last health concern on the list.

Here is the list:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Breast Cancer
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Uterine Fibroids
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Violence

The first of the five, high blood pressure, is most common in women middle-aged or older.  However, according to http://www.womenshealth.gov/minority-health/african-americans/high-blood-pressure.cfm, an article on a federal government website for women's health,

"African-American women develop high blood pressure earlier in life and have higher average blood pressures compared with white women."

There are things you can do to prevent high blood pressure, and some tips listed on the website include these  -

  • Eat heart-healthy foods. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose lean meats and low-fat dairy products. Limit salt.
  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, try to quit.
  • If you drink alcohol, have no more than one drink per day.
  • Reduce stress.

The next major health concern listed is diabetes, and according to the aforementioned women's health website,

Type 2 diabetes — the most common type of diabetes — is one of the biggest health challenges facing African-Americans, and especially African-American women.  1 in 4 African American women older than 55 has diabetes.  

That is an astonishing number!  Other numbers for example the fact that "Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20–74 years.", and"12.6 million, or 10.8% of all women aged 20 years or older have diabetes" found at the American Diabetes Association website at http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics/?loc=DropDownDB-stats tell just how dangerous and prevalent this disease is.  

So what can you do to avoid this disease?  The American Diabetes Association has a page full of examples and helpful tips here:  http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/prevention/?loc=DropDownDB-prevention.  The main topics are getting routine checkups, tracking what you eat, and keeping track of your blood glucose levels which can be directly related to the development of diabetes.

Diabetes development can be directly related to obesity, the last topic in this article.  Obesity is a huge problem for African American women, especially considering 4 out of 5 African American women are considered overweight or obese by health standards.  These standards are measured by the BMI (Body Mass Index) scale.  Here is some history behind the BMI index, and also some of its limitations, found at http://www.bmicalculator.org/

"BMI was invented by Adolphe Quetelet in the early 1800s while he was conducting a social experiment in body image. It was referred to as the Quetelet Scale. The phrase “body mass index” was developed by Ancel Keys in the early 1970s, just like Quetelet, as part of a social study on weight and obesity. The term BMI stuck and became popular among fitness professionals, individuals and doctors.

Keys did not like BMI being used in this way as he developed the phrase to be applied to studying population groups as a whole not individuals. He meant for the overall BMI of a culture or geographically located people group to be calculated to help determine diseases, physical inactivity, and risk factors. None the less, BMI has now become a staple in the doctor’s office and in the gym."

"BMI has its limitations and some doctors and educators are lobbying for significant changes. The main limitation of BMI is that it only takes into consideration weight and height. Though it is a step above simply using a person’s weight to determine health, there are many factors left out of the BMI calculations.

For example, a person’s bone density and size are not taken into consideration. Some people are referred to as big-boned. This is not just an alternate term to fat, as some people believe. There are actually different bone sizes and densities within people. This is determined by ethnicity, family history, and other factors. Bone density is not taken into consideration when determining a person’s Body Mass Index..."

Exercise and eating healthy are the main ways to avoid obesity, and exercise looks different for different people, as does eating healthy.  For some, exercise means starting out with a regimen of walking a certain number of times a week for a certain time period/number of miles.  For others, it means increased aerobic and other activities.  It all depends on your level of fitness.  

Keep checking in for more articles in this series!

Is Eating Healthy Too Costly?

When considering the cost of eating healthier, it basically boils down to the three T's - Time, Talents, and Treasure.  Many say that it takes (Costs) too much time to cook, make salads, or to even learn to cook if you do not know.  It takes too long to figure out what I want if I have to eat healthy.  Another popular saying is that it costs too much to eat healthy, and let's face it, a lot of the healthier options can at first glance seem to be more expensive.  Take for example, microwave dinners.  The healthy good stuff, without all the calories that promises to make you leaner and meaner, is way more expensive than the regular TV dinners that most people indulge in when they need a quick easy bite and do not want to invest a lot of money. 

So how are we to combat these obstacles, and what should big businesses be doing to help?  Let's give an example to help demonstrate the latter, then tackle the former.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/19/us-walmart-humana-rewards-idUSBRE88I06620120919

Check out this article to see a feature on Walmart's new partnership with Humana Healthcare.  Their new initiative focuses on rewarding consumers for shopping healthy, by trimming costs for healthy foods.  Here is how it works: 

"More than 1 million members of Humana's healthy rewards program will get a 5 percent credit on about 1,300 healthy food items at U.S. Walmart stores starting on October 15, the companies said. The credit can be used against future Walmart purchases...Walmart's products eligible for the credit include fresh fruits, vegetables, lean cuts of meat, skim milk, brown rice and packaged goods, the company said. The program works with a HumanaVitality card provided to members of Humana's rewards unit who receive points for meeting health goals."

 This is a good example of using partnerships and health awareness initiatives to not just drive sales and profit a company or two, but to profit the consumers as well both in the financial realm but also in the realm of physical health.  

Now, to deal with one of the major issues behind not eating healthy- emotional eating.  An article entitled Emotional Eating, found on the weblog SeattlePi at http://blog.seattlepi.com/timigustafsonrd/2012/09/16/emotional-eating-%E2%80%93-a-widespread-but-poorly-understood-health-problem/ cites this doctor's words on the matter of obesity and other health issues being linked to overeating:

In her book, titled “Emotional Overeating” (2012), Dr. Marcia Sirota, aToronto-based psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of addiction, says that constant eating, especially when it leads to weight problems, is actually a form of psychotic behavior.

“It seems as though we’ve become a society of addicts,” she says. “In particular, we’ve become a nation of compulsive overeaters, hyper-focused on everything having to do with food and eating.”

Even our efforts to control our weight through dieting can fit this pattern, says Dr. Sirota. “We’re compulsive in our eating behaviors, whether this means binge eating, restricting, purging, or a combination of all these. […] Both compulsive eating and compulsive food restricting (dieting) cause a behavioral vicious circle in which overeating leads to remorse, self-recrimination, heightened obsessions and further overeating.” The result is enormous emotional suffering, “suffering from a constant preoccupation with food and weight.”

Dr. Sirota believes that it is actually not desire for food that lies at the root of this kind of addiction but rather an inner emptiness, hurt or loss that needs to be filled. In other words, emotional eating is not about stilling hunger but numbing a pervasive state of unhappiness.

If consciously eating healthy, not eating necessarily less or more, will lead to a healthy lifestyle and make us feel better about ourselves, then this is what we should strive for.  How are you going to bring healthier eating habits into the new year?  Do you think it is the business's fault for not carrying healthier food, or solely people's fault for not making healthier choices?

What Does It Mean to Be Free?

In a world full of economic crises, inflation, housing bubbles popping, and some more, what does it mean to be free and care-free?  In the time of indentured servants, it meant working to pay off your debts for coming into the country, and being able to own property.  Now does it mean being able to own multiple properties, television appearances, spending exhorbitant amounts on red-carpet dresses, and the other Hollywood furnishings?  In cases like that of "Martin" star Tisha Campbell and her husband, apparently this is not the case.  

   Yesterday Black Enterprise reported a story about the couple found here (http://www.blackenterprise.com/news/tisha-campbell-duane-martin-sued-home-equity-loan/) that read as such:

Former “Martin” star Tisha Campbell and her husband Duane Martin have been sued by a bank for a home equity loan.

City National Bank is suing the couple for $430,000 over a home equity loan they took out in 2008.

According to court documents, the couple took out a loan on a California property for over $600,000. However, at the same time of the loan, the couple owed more than $730,000 on another property to another bank.

Is that free?

Some say the ability to even own million dollar homes means you have "arrived," but cases such as these show that the issue of being free from debt is the true measuring stick.  I think we should as African-Americans start valuing the old measuring stick of being free, which included being debt free, being able to work for yourself, own land, and not have to be at someone else's mercy.  The banks are slave-master's once you get under their thumb - you work for them until you pay them off.  We should strive to own our own businesses, own our own properties, and most importantly be out of debt.  Please weigh in and give your thoughts!

Is Blogging Healthy? A Discerning Ruling

I was reading Stanton Peele, addiction expert for the Huffington Post, and his recent article on addiction this evening/morning found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stanton-peele/addiction_b_1874233.html?utm_hp_ref=health-news&ir=Health%20News.  In it he informed us, his readers, that "the American Psychiatric Association's forthcoming manual doesn't discriminate -- any substance may be addictive. Moreover, the manual (DSM-5), soon to be released, will for the first time include a non-substance addiction (gambling), and may include a catch-all "behavioral addiction -- not otherwise specified" category."  According to the psychology definition given by Stanton Peele, an addiction is "when a person seeks out an experience, ritual, or reward to the exclusion -- and detriment -- of all other goals and activities."  His comments made me start thinking.  First gambling, then lotto tickets, then...blogging addictions?  Your first reaction to this statement is probably - what's wrong with blogging?  Why in the world would anyone consider it a negative thing to be addicted to?  In my opinion, there can be such a thing as an unhealthy blogging addiction.  

   For example, you may start blogging and get so consumed by the topic and the responses you get, that you start forsaking or neglecting daily hygiene, your job/other commitments for example children, or a spouse.  More seriously, you may be blogging for reasons such as A) to defame or target someone or a group of people, or B) to pass off someone else's work as your own for your personal gain.  You may have been warned about it but have a belief or compulsion that compels you to blog about the particular topic, despite the danger to yourself or others that may arise.  That is where you must draw the line between healthy blogging, and a blogging addiction in my opinion.  I believe that there are people out there who use the ease of technology and new social media to enable them to commit wrongdoing.  Look for example, at the use of the media in the anti-Islam film that went viral and led to the attack on the US embassy and other attacks.  Whether or not there is freedom of speech, someone who feels a compulsion to act in such a manner obviously has an unhealthy addiction, and in this case, I rule that blogging can be unhealthy. By a case-by-case standard, it can be described as an addiction by the aforementioned description.  What are your thoughts?