Making Healthy Choices: Part of Black Heritage
February is both Black Heritage Month, and American Heart Month, and it’s not hard to draw the connection between recognizing both celebrations. By taking pride in our ancestry, culture and traditions as African Americans, or Black Americans, we strengthen and protect our unique heritage. By adopting healthy living and fitness – or lifestyles that emphasize healthy eating and physical activity – we protect our hearts and, as a people, prevent or delay the development of cardiovascular disease, which is the No. 1 cause of death among African Americans in the U.S. as well as hypertension, and diabetes, among other major possible killers and disablers.

It is also well documented that overall, African Americans and other people of color receive unequal health care, also called health disparities.  Referring to this unacceptable situation, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. observed that: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane”

If we are to markedly decrease “injustice” in this nation’s health care system, we must learn how to making healthy living and fitness our focus, as well as disease prevention rather than disease treatment. There is so much that African Americans  can be doing to keep their hearts beating long and strong, and there is no better month than Black Heritage Month to commit to that personal health goal.

Some Health and Fitness Ideas

One of the most important ways, of course, is to eat healthy, which means seriously limiting fast foods, salt, sweetened sodas and high-carbohydrate foods like doughnuts and white bread, and not snacking while watching TV. For a healthy change, eat more fish and fowl instead of high fat red meat; ground skinless turkey breast instead of ground beef or ground pork; low fat or skim milk instead of whole milk; and bean and grain dishes instead of refined or white rice.  A good overall rule for a Wise Diet is less fat andcholesterol, less salt or sodium, less sugar, more fruits and vegetables, more fiber, and if you drink alcoholic beverages, no more than two drinks a day.

To stay heart-healthy, you also need physical exercise as part of your daily routine. Video games, TV, and long hours of computer use have turned millions of people into being overweight, obese, or couch potatoes – and their bodies show it. Break the spell and make it a point of doing a physical activity you like at least five times a week for 30 minutes each (or split it up into two 15-minute periods). Need some ideas? How about walking, dancing, gardening, housecleaning (smile), jogging, or riding a bike (either outdoors or a stationary bike indoors).  You’ll not only feel stronger and keep your weight and blood pressure under control, but do your heart a big favor in the process.

For other ways to protect yourself, check out the Health Power Tip Sheets, which are  loaded with health and fitness ideas on what to do, and how. You’ll also  find many cultural specialty recipes for eating healthy and cooking good in the Health Power Food and Fitness Channel. They will help you get in shape, and stay that way, no matter what your age is.

Remember, there’s no better time than now to make healthy life choices, and in doing so, you will not only be protecting your health, but also Black Heritage!

There’s much additional information on our website about how to decrease your risk of developing, and how to control heart diseasehypertension (high blood pressure)stroke and obesity.

Until my next “Minority Health Minute”,