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Monthly Health Topics

Black and Beautiful: Celebrating African-American Women

By George Hulse, Vice President of External Affairs, Healthfirst

Obesity levels in the U.S. are on the rise in both adults and children. A sobering statistic that surprised me was that about four out of five African-American women are overweight or obese.

This means that, compared to other groups in the U.S., African-American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese.

In our culture, weight is a sensitive topic. I don’t want to go into how much you should weigh because that is a very personal discussion that you should have with your doctor. What I want to focus on is how weight problems can bring on a number of health issues—one of the most serious being diabetes. More than 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. But diabetes is also a condition that can often be prevented; however, it takes time and effort dedicated to regular physical activity, healthy eating habits, and maintaining a healthy weight.

To prevent diabetes, the most important thing you can do is eat healthy and get up and move regularly. At mealtimes, load at least half of your plate full of all different kinds of colorful fruits and vegetables. Also, track your weight at home. When you visit your doctor, ask questions about whether your weight falls in the normal range. Your doctor will be able to give you tips and advice on how to maintain or reduce your weight.

When it comes to getting active, it doesn’t matter what you do, just get up and move. Walking, dancing, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator are good ways to be physically active at any age, as well as biking, tai chi, jogging, and exercise classes.

There are many healthy celebrations you can take part in to learn more about healthy eating and fitness opportunities. One that I would recommend is Circle of Sisters, the largest expo for women of color in New York City. This popular, fun-filled weekend (October 4–5 at the Jacob Javits Center) attracts more than 50,000 multi-generational African-Americans and features a variety of panel discussions, seminars, inspirational services, R&B and gospel concerts, a fashion show, and lots of small businesses selling interesting things.

My organization is presenting the Culinary Corner, featuring Chef Jeff Vaden, who specializes in healthy soul and Caribbean food. Chef Vaden will choose a healthy meal recipe provided by one lucky listener of R&B radio station WBLS 107.5. He will then cook the winning recipe on-site and give a tasting to attendees. We will also be getting your blood pumping with mini workouts led by fitness trainer Leo Wright. Come and join the fun! We can all band together to beat back obesity and diabetes.

George Hulse is Vice President of External Affairs at Healthfirst. For more tips on leading a healthier lifestyle, visit the Healthfirst website at www.healthfirst.org

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