Milwaukee Community Journal Editor Thomas E. Mitchell, Jr. recently received the inaugural Darrell L. Turner Excellence Award from Brentwood Church of Christ’s Health Organization. The award was given to Mitchell for highlighting through the newspaper issues of health, youth development and community outreach. He was one of five individuals and organizations to be recognized. The award is named after Darrell Turner, one of the founders of the BHO, which was founded in 2003 to make health education essential and accessible to everyone throughout the entire community. Mitchell is pictured above with Sharon Chestnut, assist. executive director of BHO. (Kemp photo)
A black woman eating fruit. © Jason Stitt – Fotolia.com
by Sloan Luckie, Blackdoctor.org
Most people know how to eat right and exercise…right?
Maybe, maybe not. At a recent Body Under Construction book signing, I was asked, “Since everyone knows that we should eat right and exercisein order to live longer, healthier lives, why don’t we do it?”
I think that this is a great question that get to the very heart of why.
Here are the 7 UNLUCKY reasons I gave her…
Expectations. We set our expectations too high and establish unattainable weight and health goals. When these unattainable goals are not reached, most give up on attaining and maintaining optimal health before giving the process time to work.
Instant Results. Many expect instant results. They view themselves in the mirror and weigh themselves daily expecting an immediate transformation. When instant results fail to appear, many give up. Ironically, when we became overweight, the weight gained did not occur instantly. It was an insidious process that took place over a period of time.
Attaining and maintaining optimal health requires patience as a person reverses the unhealthy habits which took years to develop.
Procrastination. We find multiple reasons to start tomorrow. Many won’t start until they are required to by a doctor who warns if you don’t develop healthier eating and fitness habits, you are at risk for cancer, heart disease, type2 diabetes or other chronic illness. Start today so you can have many healthy tomorrows.
Unless we act now, these disparities will continue to affect generations to come.
by Anton J. Gunn, theGrio
Have you received a wake-up call yet?
For too many of us, it takes a sudden wake-up call — in the form of a major or minor health crisis — to make us realize that we’re not invincible. And tragically, for some, that call comes too late.
As black men, we often don’t talk about our health or seek help until something goes wrong. We may exercise and eat right. We may know how our habits today affect how we feel. But what about tomorrow? Are we making the right choices to stay healthy as we grow older? Most importantly, are we having the right conversations about health and well-being with our sons and our fathers, with our brothers, our colleagues, our neighbors, and our friends?
According to the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, black men are 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease and 60 percent more likely to die from a stroke than white men. And unfortunately, the list goes on — black men still suffer from higher rates of disease and chronic illness such as prostate cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Unless we act now, these disparities will continue to affect generations to come. Their existence should be a wake-up call for all black men. It’s time to invest not only in our own health, but in the health of our communities.
That starts by putting ourselves in the driver’s seat when it comes to our own care. The health care law signed by President Obama in 2010 is removing many of the obstacles to health care we’ve faced in the past. It provides access to preventive services – like screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes – at no cost to us.
It will protect those of us with pre-existing conditions like asthma or heart disease from unfair premium rates or outright denial of coverage. It makes major investments in America’s network of community health centers, where over a quarter of patients served are African-American. And on October 1st, the law will open the door to affordable coverage for millions of African-Americans, through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
That means brothers running their own businesses will have the opportunity to get coverage for themselves, their employees, and their families. That means men working in barber shops, body shops, and construction companies across America will have access to affordable coverage if they don’t have it now. That means when you hit a rough spot and are between jobs, you don’t have to sacrifice the well-being of your loved ones. It means greater peace of mind and financial security for our families and communities.
There’s a lot of great work being done in our community to close gaps in access to quality care. I’m encouraged by the tireless work that our faith- and community-based groups are doing every day to raise awareness and push policies that will make the health care system work for all Americans. They are leading the way – but it’s up to all of us to do our part.
The wake-up call that brings better health to our communities shouldn’t be a private alarm that we hear alone. It should be a chorus of voices that speaks to us, our families and our communities. This year, let’s put our health in our own hands, and create a brighter, more secure future together for all of us.
Anton J. Gunn is the Director of External Affairs in the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
by Whitney Green, BlackDoctor.org
For something so crucial to your quality of life as your health, there are certain shocking health facts that can make it difficult to know just what to do to stay healthy.
Nap or stay awake?
You had to work late for a meeting. Now it’s 4am, and you have to be at work at 7am. Should you try to get a couple hours of sleep, or is it better to just stay up and deal?
According to experts, even though you may want to take that nap, it may not be the best thing for you, says Michael A. Grandner, PhD, research associate at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania.
“If you get less than 4 hours, there’s a good chance that you’ll wake up in slow-wave sleep, which can leave you disoriented, irrational and extremely irritable,” Grandner says.
So, what should you do? Drink some coffee and keep busy until your regular bedtime.
Which is worse: sitting for too long or smoking?
Just about everyone knows that both sitting down for too long and smoking are both pretty bad for your health. But which one is worse?
A group of Australian researchers recently tried to find out by analyzing data from a lifestyle survey with 11,247 participants over the age of 25. The result? The team concluded that every daily hour of sitting while watching TV was associated with an 8 percent higher risk of death.
“Watching one hour of TV above age 25 may be about as lethal as smoking one cigarette,” says J. Lennert Veerman, PhD, a senior research fellow at the University of Queensland, who led the study.
Yes, smoking causes many cancers–lung, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach and cervix–as well as acute myeloid leukemia. But, prolonged sitting has been associated with higher risks of heart disease, diabetes and obesity-related illness.
So, what should you do? Or rather, not do? ”While smoking rates are going down, almost everyone watches quite a bit of TV,” says Veerman. He recommends limiting couch time to two hours per day or night.
Does coffee or alcohol disturb your ability to sleep more?
Both that cup of coffee and that glass of wine can prevent you from sleeping well, says Allison T. Siebern, PhD, CBSM, clinical assistant professor and the associate director of the Insomnia and Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Stanford University School of Medicine.
Caffeine makes your body think that it’s not tired, Siebern explains. But as soon as it wears off, you crash. End of story. But in the case of alcohol, while you may get a little sleepy at first, and even fall asleep, you may easily start snoring, having nightmares, breaking out into nightsweats, or getting headaches.
So, what should you do? Have a cup of coffee if you need to stay alert, drink a glass of wine for happy hour with friends. Avoid both if you need to wake up early the next morning.
Should you exercise on a full stomach or an empty one?
According to Heidi Skolnik, MS, CDN, FACSM, a noted nutritionist:
“You’ll probably be so hungry later that you’ll eat even more,” she says, adding that she sees this over and over with her clients.
So, what should you do? Think of your pre-workout snack as fuel. Skolnik says research supports the idea that having something in your system will help you work out harder, which will then help you burn even more calories. Overeating will make for an uncomfortable workout, but not eating at all will hurt your workout, your metabolism and your overall health.
A long life free of heart disease does not come just from controlling the standard measures like blood pressure and cholesterol. Sure, keeping tabs on these indicators is essential to gauging your heart’s health, but a few other numbers—some surprising—can be meaningful as well.
Take control of your health by learning these six numbers; they’ll help with everything from losing weight to protecting your heart.
1. Your daily calorie needs.
This is not technically a measurement, but it can have a huge influence on your health. Most women need 2,000 calories a day for good health, and men generally need about 2,550. One way to work out your daily calorie needs is to multiply your weight in pounds by 13 to 15, depending on your activity level. But roughly, that’s 300 to 400 calories for breakfast, 500 to 600 for lunch, 600 to 700 for dinner, and two or three snacks of roughly 100 to 200 calories each. Trying to lose weight? Eat roughly 500 calories less.
2. Your waist size.
Waist size is one of the best ways to measure whether your weight is affecting your heart health. Fat cells aren’t just storage for extra calories; when body fat is packed into your abdomen, the fat cells release inflammatory chemicals and out-of-kilter levels of appetite-controlling proteins. Your risk of heart attack increases, and your risk of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome goes up. For women, health risk begins to rise when your waist is more than 35 inches. For men, risk increases with a measurement when your waist is over 40 inches. The best way to measure? Wrap a tape measure around your abdomen at or near your belly button. Keep it snug but not tight—and don’t pull your stomach in.
3. Your LDLs and HDLs.
It’s important to know not just your total cholesterol reading, but also your levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and “good” HDLs. When you see your doctor for blood test results, ask for the readings for both forms of cholesterol and the ratio of your total cholesterol to HDLs (TC:HDL). Aim for total cholesterol below 5.2 mmol/l (below 5 mmol/l if you have heart disease or diabetes), and LDL cholesterol levels below 3.5 mmol/l, or below 2 mmol/l if you have a history of heart disease. A healthy HDL level is 1.3 mmol/l or above.
4. Your blood pressure.
Blood pressure—the force of blood against the walls of your arteries—rises and falls normally during the day. When it remains elevated, you have hypertension (high blood pressure) and this carries a higher risk or atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke.
A reading of 140/90 mm Hg or more is considered high, and if it’s between 120/80 and 139/89, you may still be at risk and should be taking steps to prevent the development of hypertension.
How to check: Your doctor will check your blood pressure at every visit, but you can also buy a home blood pressure monitor, and studies have shown that people who check their blood pressure at home keep it under tighter control. But home monitoring should never replace the regular checks by your doctor or nurse—or visit a pharmacy, many of which have free-to-use blood pressure machines.
How often to check: Ask your doctor how often you should have your blood pressure (BP) measured. You can request a BP check every time you go to the office.
5. Your triglycerides.
Triglycerides are made from the fats and carbohydrates you eat, which are converted into a form that can be stored in fat cells. Triglycerides are also released from fat tissue when the body needs extra energy between meals. It’s normal to have some triglycerides in your bloodstream, but high levels are linked to coronary artery disease—especially in women. When you have high triglycerides paired with low HDLs, your risk of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome may be increased. A normal triglyceride reading is less than 1.7 mmol/l. Your doctor will advise you how often you should have your triglycerides checked.
6. Your morning pulse rate.
Your pulse is the number of times your heart beats in one minute. Regular monitoring of your resting pulse first thing in the morning will help you to see if your workouts are strengthening your heart. For example, a normal resting pulse rate is 60 to 90 beats per minute. People who are fit tend to have lower resting pulse rates because their heart muscles are in good shape. But if you don’t exercise regularly and your heart rate is lower than the normal range, tell your doctor—it could be a sign of heart disease.
How to check: You’ll need a clock or watch with a second hand. The pulse is best measured at the wrist or neck, where an artery runs close to the surface of the skin. To measure the pulse at your wrist, place your index and middle fingers on the underside of the opposite wrist. Press firmly with the flat of your fingers until you feel the pulse. Find a neck pulse either side of your Adam’s apple: just press your fingers into the hollows wither side of your windpipe. Once you’ve found your pulse, count the beats for 15 seconds and multiply by four—this will give your pulse rate in beats per minute.
How often to check: Take your pulse once a month, in the morning before you get out of bed. To check if your exercise program is working, assess your maximum pulse just after exercise and note how long it takes to return to its normal resting rate—the time interval should reduce as you get fitter.
Happily married couples are more likely to enjoy better mental and physical health than their single friends, a new study shows. And those in good marriages are more likely to rate their health as better as they grow older, meaning aging adults in poor physical health could benefit in particular from improvements in their marriages.
Christine Proulx, assistant professor in the University of Missouri Department of Human Development and Family Studies, examined the long-term relationship between self-rated health and marital quality, and found that — no matter what stage of marriage — positive or negative relationships impact a person’s health.
She said that spouses should be aware that how they treat each other and how happy they are in their marriages play a role in both partners’ health, meaning they should consider the maintenance of their personal relationship as key to feeling good both mentally and physically. Happily married people are also found to enjoy better health than those who are unhappy in their marriages.
“We often think about the aging process as something we can treat medically with a pill or more exercise, but working on your marriage also might benefit your health as you age,” Proulx said in a press release. “Engaging with your spouse is not going to cure cancer, but building stronger relationships can improve both people’s spirits and well-being and lower their stress.”
Brain Brawn & Body, a new website dedicated to the health and wellness of African American men will launch Thursday, February 21, at www.brainbrawnbody.com.
A gala event to highlight the arrival of the site will be held at the UWM Zilber School of Public Health, 1240 N 10th Street in Milwaukee at 5 pm Central time. The event is sponsored by Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, the American Cancer Society and the City of Milwaukee Health Department.
Scheduled speakers are Theresa Jones, VP, Diversity and Inclusion Strategies, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare; Bevan Baker, City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner; Michelle Hinton, Director of Community Partnerships, American Cancer Society.
Health disparities for Black men are off the charts:
• The life span of Black men is 7.1 years shorter than other racial groups
• Black men experience disproportionately higher death rates in all the leading causes of death
• 40% of Black men die prematurely from cardiovascular disease as compared to 21% of White men
• Black men are 5 times more likely to die of HIV/AIDS
• Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15 to 24 year old Black males
Eric Von and Faithe Colas, co-founders of Brain Brawn & Body believe the website will help empower Black men to get in front of these devastating statistics and improve their overall health and live healthier lives, thereby strengthening their family’s health and that of the overall community.
“Black men need to know as much as they can about living healthy lives; not just for themselves, but for the ones they love and for the ones that love them.
“We are certain that through Brain Brawn & Body sound and critical health and medical information will be provided to a population that might not otherwise, receive this information.
“We’ve found that African American men are often overlooked in the healthcare arena”, said Eric Von, Brain Brawn & Body publisher and editor.
“No longer”, says co-publisher Faithe Colas. “Brain Brawn & Body fills the void by presenting information in a convenient, one stop, and culturally specific format.
That type of presentation is so important when it comes to health information. Until now, the market didn’t offer a vehicle like Brain Brawn & Body. Our proactive and aggressive rather than passive approach to marketing our website is unique and will prove amazingly responsive to the needs of our subscribers.”
In addition to raising awareness among African American men, Brain Brawn & Body will address the issue of health disparities experienced by African Americans.
Blacks bear a disproportionate burden of disease, injury disability and death. Health disparities can mean earlier deaths, decreased quality of life, loss of economic opportunity and perceptions of injustice.
Brain Brawn & Body will help eliminate disparities through a careful examination of the issues and sound reporting of the facts.
Recognizing that knowledge is power, Brain Brawn & Body will empower its readers with vital data that will serve as a catalyst for moving men to a healthier way of life.
Subscribers can also sign up to receive newsletters that feature nutrition, lifestyle, leisure and wealth management articles written by experts in these fields.
To become a Brain Brawn & Body subscriber visit www.brainbrawnbody.com.
You can beat the odds and prevent heart disease or stroke by reclaiming your history and returning to whole unprocessed foods. ©spotmatikphoto – Fotolia.com
If you’ve never tried African Heritage cuisine now is the perfect time. Coinciding with Black History Month and American Heart Month, February 1st through 7th is African Heritage & Health Week – a great time to discover why the savory flavors and naturally healthy features of African Heritage cuisine are the next big food trend.
The foods, robust flavors and healthy cooking techniques that were core to the well-being of our ancestors from Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and the American South may actually be the path to optimal health. Their plant-based diets were naturally heart-healthy – low in unhealthy fats, sugars, and sodium, and high in nutrient-dense whole foods.
In fact, scientific studies show that many chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity, now prevalent in African-American communities, appear at higher rates as traditional diets are left behind.
For example, research published in the Journal of Biomedical Science found that the prevalence of metabolic syndrome — the risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes — in young Tanzanian men increased as they ate less traditional food and more nontraditional foods such as donuts and ice cream. The same trend was found in Botswana.
As the younger population shifts from traditional to a nontraditional lifestyle, weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels rise. The elderly in Botswana who are less inclined to change their eating habits are actually healthier.
Today, heart disease is the number one killer of all Americans and stroke is the fourth leading cause of death. Moreover, the risk for getting these diseases is even higher in African-Americans. Black adults are twice as likely as white adults to have a stroke and 1.5 times as likely to have high blood pressure.
According to the American Heart Association, there is evidence that African-Americans may carry a gene that makes them more salt sensitive – which may attribute to the higher prevalence of high blood pressure. That could explain why more modern, processed diets are contributing to the higher rates.
The more highly processed your food the more sodium you are likely to get. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 75 percent of Americans’ sodium intake comes from pre-packaged and restaurant food. The ten major sources of excess sodium in the diet are cold cuts and other cured meats, pizza, canned soups, sandwiches, commercial breads, rolls, cheese, meat and snacks.
The good news is you can beat the odds and prevent heart disease or stroke by reclaiming your history and returning to whole unprocessed foods.
“Part of history is, of course, the foods that have sustained a culture,” said Sara Baer-Sinnott, president of Oldways. “African Heritage & Health Week is an opportunity to raise awareness and elevate this cuisine, which is far from the unhealthy soul food some might think of. What better time to dedicate a week to African Heritage and heart health than during Black History Month?”
Oldways, the food and nutrition nonprofit organizing African Heritage and Health Week, challenges everyone to enjoy at least one dish at home or in a restaurant inspired by the cuisine of our African-American ancestors. Your heart and taste buds will be glad you did.
To help you explore a restaurant in your area, Oldways has created a new “African Heritage Dine Around” section on its website. There, you’ll find dining destinations across the nation, from pop-up shops to fine dining restaurants that serve healthy cuisines from the many regions of Africa and the African Diaspora. From Ethiopian to Ghanaian, Jamaican to Cuban to Southern style, African heritage restaurants bring a wide variety of plant-based dishes, cooking techniques and flavors to our communities.
If a meal at home shared with family and friends is more appealing, Oldways suggests its own recipe forJollof rice as an option. Jollof is a traditional African rice dish that is not just delicious and healthy, but budget-friendly too. You’ll also find plenty of other heritage recipes on Oldways’ website.
“The best way to inspire healthy eating is with food that tastes great,” said Baer-Sinnott. “African Heritage and Health Week is a time to motivate and inspire people to bring back healthy ‘old ways’ of eating. We want to stir up excitement and expose all Americans to the delicious, easy-to-prepare, nutritious foods and flavors of African heritage.”
Don’t stop with African Heritage and Health Week – keep the momentum going by signing up for the newAfrican Heritage & Health Quarterly Newsletter. You’ll receive African Heritage & Health program updates, delicious recipes made with wholesome ingredients and information on the latest health studies pertaining to African Americans.
Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD is an award winning registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is the author of The African American Guide To Living Well With Diabetes and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes. Follow Brown-Riggs on twitter @eatingsoulfully.
U.S. Earns a “C” on the 2012 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card
- 7 states and the District of Columbia reduced the percentage of uninsured women of childbearing age;
- 43 states the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico lowered the late preterm birth rate, infants born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation.
A little weight training may go a long way toward helping improve the heart health of black men, new research suggests.
Just six weeks of resistance exercise appears to have a positive impact on the blood levels of key indicators for inflammation, immune response and/or artery shape among black men. Such indicators, or “markers,” are known to rise in conjunction with tissue damage, infection and stress. But after weight training, levels of two of the markers dropped in these patients, the researchers found.
However, while the association was observed among black men it was not found among white exercisers. This caveat tracked an earlier finding by the same research team that showed that while black men who lifted weights experienced a drop in an important post-injury/infection inflammation marker known as C-reactive protein, white men did not.
“This suggests that resistance exercise training is more beneficial in young African-American men than in [white] men of the same age,” Bo Fernhall, dean of the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), said in a university news release.
Fernhall, who led the study as a professor in the department of kinesiology and community health at UIC’s Urbana-Champaign campus, and colleagues reported their findings online recently in the Journal of Human Hypertension.
The researchers noted that in the United States, cardiovascular disease — particularly in the form of high blood pressure (or hypertension), stroke and kidney disease — is more prevalent among blacks than whites.
“Higher blood pressures in African-American children have been shown as young as 8 to 10 years of age,” Fernhall said. “So there’s obviously something going on that predisposes the African-American population to end-stage disease, hypertension and stroke and the more debilitating diseases later on in life.”
The focus of the current investigation was on indicators in the blood that signal arterial trouble, including one involved in blood vessel remodeling and one that signals oxidative stress.
Levels of both dropped among black men who lifted weights. Study co-author Marc Cook, a UIC doctoral student, pointed out that this builds on prior research that has shown that aerobic activity also helps to lower levels of oxidative stress markers.
“[So] if you don’t like cardiovascular exercise, if you don’t like running on a treadmill, if you can’t play basketball or you’re not good at it, you can lift weights and improve your health, especially when it comes to high blood pressure,” Cook said. “If you just want to lift weights and you do it on a regular basis, you could improve your function.”
While the study found an association between cardiovascular health and weight training in black men, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.