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Monthly Health Topics

Focusing on Health for Black History Month

By George Hulse
Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the rich culture of African Americans and the history of the African diaspora. This year, I want to honor the history of African Americans in New York City by focusing on an important issue in our current history: our health!
February also happens to be American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about heart disease and celebrate the men and women taking action to protect their hearts.
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death among African Americans in the United States, and rates of early death from heart disease are higher among African Americans than among people of other races. High blood pressure, a condition that increases the chances of getting heart disease, affects African Americans at younger ages and in greater numbers than it does people of other races.
So what can we do to care for our hearts? The first step is getting the tests recommended for you based on your age, sex, and health history. Make sure to see your doctor for a checkup at least once a year. If you have health insurance, a yearly checkup will likely be covered at no additional out-of-pocket cost.
Your doctor will most likely check your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels to get a general picture of your current health and to see if you have any conditions that need to be treated with medication and lifestyle changes.
It’s very important to see your doctor for a checkup even if you are feeling healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many conditions, including high blood pressure and heart disease, often have no symptoms. That’s why high blood pressure is sometimes called the “silent killer.”
It’s also important to follow a nutritious diet and maintain a healthy body weight for your age, sex, and height. Make sure you eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean proteins and try to avoid salt, sugars, and saturated fat.
If you smoke, you should think about quitting. For support and tools to help you kick the habit, talk to your doctor or visit www.NYSmokeFree.com.
By working with your doctor and taking care of yourself, it’s possible to prevent or control many health conditions. This year, honor Black History Month by focusing on wellness—and by making better health part of your current history!
George Hulse is Vice President of External Affairs at Healthfirst. The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice.

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