“For the love of black women.”
If you love a black woman, for health’s sake, ask her to look in the mirror and see her mom, and grandmothers, says leading cardiologist.
A sobering conversation with cardiologist Sheila Robinson, MD, has me wanting to take every black woman I know and love and have them listen to Dr. Robinson’s message about how much more at risk they are for all manner of health problems.
“Go look in the mirror. Know that you are your mother, your grandmothers, your great-grandmothers. Look at the risk factors that are in your life for heart attack and stroke, and learn and know your family history.
“With this information, start to make lifestyle changes so you are not as likely to have a stroke or a heart attack as your mother or grandmother, or most African American women. Look and know so you are not as likely to have diabetes, or to lose your kidneys. Know who you are in terms of your history, because the more aware and educated you are, the more you are able to empower yourself – and others – with the awareness and education needed to prevent diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart attack and stroke. You have to be your own greatest advocate,” she says. And she knows.
The statistics are stunning.
If you are a black woman, you are more likely to be sicker, and to die earlier, than are women of other races. You are seven times more likely to lose your kidneys from hypertension. And you are two to three times more likely to die of a heart attack or stroke.
The main reason for the overwhelming statistical stack up against black women?
It’s the combination of problems. Seldom is it “just” obesity, or “just” diabetes, that is a factor. It is the “comorbidities” or concomitant health problems.
Among black women there is a greater prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke. And it is the fact that many women are obese AND have diabetes, or are obese, have diabetes, AND have high blood pressure,that makes for the increased risk of premature death due to heart attack or stroke.
Dr. Robinson, an African American woman herself, says there are obvious risk factors, such as social conditions, leading to increased stress. Count being a single parent, perhaps with multiple generations under one roof, and having challenges with finances, transportation, healthcare, and nutrition, as being among the myriad stresses faced by many African American women.
“Stress makes everything worse. There is a genetic predisposition among black women for hypertension in this country – 90 percent of it is familial – but you add in the stresses many black women face, and the fact that one in three African Americans has hypertension, and that diabetes is more prevalent in the African American community, and you pile on the societal variables of stress, and it is easier to see why we are sicker and more of us die earlier than men, and women of other races.”
Women do have a 10-year advantage over men when it comes to the delay of coronary heart disease, thanks to the protective effect of estrogen. Pre-menopause, estrogen helps protect the heart’s arteries and regulate lipids. But when women go into menopause, which often happens when lifestyle stresses are at their peak, their health is more likely to take a big hit.
“When we go into menopause, we lose that protective benefit of estrogen, and then you see the incidence of heart disease rise in women. If you have other risk factors – the hypertension, diabetes, a family history of heart disease and stroke – your risks are greater,” she said.
Dr. Robinson says the lifestyle changes that will make a difference in women’s health “are cheap.” But the social and cultural norms of African American women, such as putting themselves last, make even easy changes difficult.
Next week we’ll look at how those societal and cultural norms – aided by the fast food industry – must be changed for “an albatross that has created a lot of the illnesses” to be lifted.
If you are a black woman, or you love a black woman, these are important messages, and I hope you’ll read and share this article this week, and next.
High Blood Pressure and African Americans
African Americans and Kidney Disease
African Americans and Stroke
African Americans, Heart Disease and Stroke
Revisit the value and timing of hormone therapy
Learn more about nutrition innovations – substituting healthier choices for “food as comfort” and more – on the ”Dana Barrett Show on radio biz1190, 1190 a.m., on Wednesday, March 9, 2016, from 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. when Registered Dietitian Rachel Baer, RD, LD, of Good Measure Meals, talks with Dana about getting what our bodies need to be fueled, and how some small changes in eating can make a big difference in energy and focus levels. Each Wednesday, the Vital Edge segment features the latest health, wellness, and beauty innovations. For more information, visit http://biz1190.com/danabarrett
Podcasts of prior Vital Edge segments on innovations in hormones, venous health, ditching your reading glasses, and more, are downloadable on the http://biz1190.com/danabarrettwebsite.