Category Archives: Health Topics

From A-to-Z, things you should know to take care of yourself

Eating Your Stress?

My relationship with food is out of control! I certainly was forced to realize this fact on a recent unpleasant meeting with my bathroom scale!

This has been a stressful year, with the death and illness of loved ones, family upheaval, and financial challenges. I live the perfect life for someone who can become a stress eater.  I work from home, and am a pretty good cook. So all day long, I am in close proximity to a fully stocked refrigerator and pantry that calls me away from my office. And I travel a lot too, so I’m often in a position of eating at weird times, and foods that are fast–not healthy. It’s the quintessential recipe (pun intended!) for mindless, stress-induced eating.

It’s amazing how food can morph into the answer to so many of life’s hard questions. Happy? Great! Let’s eat! Depressed or bored? No problem! Comfort is only a bite away! Want to celebrate and show your love to family and friends? Cook a feast of everyone’s favorite foods and gorge yourselves! Stressed out? Relief is just a fork-full away!

Eating equals immediate gratification! Problem is, it’s the aftermath fraught with the extra pounds, self-criticism, embarrassment, and feeling “icky” that can set you up for the endless feedback loop of self-sabotaging behavior.

I’m working to change my relationship with food, and have found a great book that is really helping. It’s called, “Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food” by Jan Chozen Bays, MD. It really is helping me to get a handle on my bad eating habits.

I’m just getting started with it, but I’ve already had an “Aha Moment” in reading it. I understand now that there are many different kinds of hunger–few of which have anything to do with the nutritional needs of our bodies. Our senses, our emotions, our habits all have the ability to trigger eating. Transformative stuff!

I highly recommend this book! Let’s read it together, and share ideas–and support!

Question: What triggers emotional eating for you?

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Filed under Health Topics, Nutrition, Self-Care

The Pap Is NOT The Only Test You Need To Prevent Cervical Cancer!

January is Cervical Cancer Month. Here’s your reminder to schedule your cervical cancer screening test. As uncomfortable as you may feel with your feet up in the stirrups, and the speculum inserted in your private parts (yuck!) I strongly urge you to take a few extra minutes and request another test too.

It’s the HPV Test. If you’re 30 or older, the HPV Test is essential to ensure that the two strains of human papillomavirus (or HPV) that cause cervical cancer are detected.

Most people get HPV sometime in their life. The HPV that causes cervical cancer and genital warts is passed by skin-to-skin contact with the genital area. You do not have to have intercourse to get it: any sort of mutual sexual activity can expose you to HPV. Black women in their middle and senior years have the highest incidence of cervical cancer. And just because you are in a monogamous relationship, you are not immune from having HPV.

Just like a cold virus, HPV is usually cleared on its own in a short time. But if HPV does not go away, cervical cancer can develop. But unlike a cold virus, HPV usually has no obvious symptoms. So it takes diligent attention to regular cervical health screenings to make sure HPV is found early.

The HPV Test looks for HPV, the virus that causes abnormal cell changes. the test can be performed from the same sample as your liquid based Pap or can be collected in a separate tube at the time of your Pap test. It is the ideal companion to your cervical health regiment. By having both the Pap and HPV tests, you and your doctor can monitor any cellular changes in your cervix and the presence of HPV.

Believe me my sistahs, there are far too many women who have their Pap Test every year religiously and still their cervical cancer goes undetected. Even more tragic, are the many women who haven’t had any cervical cancer screening or do so infrequently. Are you one of these women?

Cervical cancer is 100% preventable! But it is up to you to take action. Educate yourself! Request the HPV Test! Remind all the women in your life to get their screening annually. To learn the guidelines about getting the HPV Test and take a tutorial on cervical cancer, visit the cervical cancer page on the WeSpeakLoudly website.

Two additional resources that I highly recommend are Tamika & Friends featuring the courageous journey of cervical cancer survivor Tamika Felder, and the digene HPV Test with detailed information from the developer of the HPV Test.

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Filed under Black women, Cancer, cervical cancer, Reproductive Health, Women's health

Knowing Your Family Health History Can Save Your Life

My Grandparents Ellen & Clifton Thompson

Far too few Black folks know their lineage. Part of this is directly attributable to how our ancestors were ripped from the Continent, our families sold into slavery, and disbursed around the globe.

Another part stems from our reticence to talk about health issues. Yet another part is the poor access to quality care as well as misdiagnosis from, and distrust of, the healthcare establishment.

But to be WHOLE, you must summon the fragments of self-knowledge into a more complete picture of your health status. Doing so can offer a life-saving profile of your genealogy and risk factors for a variety of health conditions.

How to gather a family health history

  • Talk with your family, starting with the elders. Ask them about their childhood illnesses, medications, surgeries, and current health conditions.
  • Find out as much of this information you can about their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles–any of your forebears.
  • For any who may have passed on, find out their cause of death.
  • Continue this inquiry with the next younger generation of your family, gathering as much information you can not only about your parents and grandparents, but their siblings as well. Many times diseases can run in families, but not manifest in your most direct bloodline.

Your elder relatives might not know the medical terms for these conditions. That’s okay. Any nugget of information could be very helpful. For example, learning that someone in your family tree had “Sugar”–another name for Diabetes–could mean that you are at higher risk for the disease as well.

Knowledge is power. Knowing your health history and sharing it with your healthcare provider is a powerful way to help you and future generations of your family live longer, healthier lives.

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Filed under Black Families, Health Topics, Intergenerational

Changing Recommendation for Mammograms? Are You Kidding?

The news hit yesterday that the US Preventive Services Task Force now recommends that routine annual mammograms be delayed until age 50 rather than 40 as has been the accepted standard. Are you kidding? For Black women, our risk of breast cancer is so high–especially in younger women–that we should be getting mammograms earlier, not later!

Want to know how they made this decision? The Task Force says, “computer models that report getting mammograms too early may cause more harm than good. In younger women, the chance of a false result outweighs the small benefit.” Harm to who?

And they further recommend that women between the ages of 50 to 79 have mammograms every other year–not even annually!

Computer models? What about the very real risk that very real women have? This is so ridiculous that I can’t even control my outrage!!! I’m not alone. The American Cancer Society (ACS) argues, “that the government is placing more emphasis on computer models than real patients!” ACS reaffirmed their recommendation for baseline mammograms to be done beginning at age 40.

Oh yeah, one other thing. The Task Force also recommends against teaching breast self-examinations! Hey, I personally know loads of breast cancer survivors who found their cancer by breast self-exam. Literally taking your breast into your own hands can save your life!

So ladies, don’t believe what this particular governmental Task Force is selling. Insist on mammograms! Do your breast self-exam every month. Spread the word!

WeSpeakLoudly did a comprehensive guide on breast health in last month’s issue of WHOLE–our e-newsletter. Follow this link to the October WHOLE, and be sure to share it with all your sistah friends, family, and co-workers. Now more than every we must be pro-active in protecting our health. Clearly some in our government don’t concern themselves with the real dangers of late diagnosis of breast cancer. APPALLING!!!

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Filed under Cancer, Self-Care

Do You Know Your Risks of Breast Cancer?

Pink RibbonIt’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the world is encircled in pink–the official color of this important campaign.  Every October, the whole world is flooding with pink products, garments, and even foods to show solidarity in the fight against breast cancer. There isn’t a media outlet (including this one!) that isn’t festooned in pink and featuring the latest information about this dreaded disease. Great!

While all these efforts are laudable, sometimes the marketing over-shadows the serious risk all women–especially African American women–face when it comes to breast cancer.

I often think of a solitary woman, sitting in disbelief after hearing these awful words, “You have breast cancer.” I’m not a survivor myself, but I work with sistah breast cancer survivors nearly everyday. I see their suffering. I know their pain. And I’m struggling to find a way that I can reach out–if only to just that one sistah, and make a difference in her life.

So for the entire month, WHOLE and WeSpeakLoudly will be dedicating this blog, our newsletter, and website to reaching our sistahs with important information about reducing the risk and overcoming breast cancer.

To kick things off, have a look at this message from sistah Gabrielle Union about breast cancer in our community.

Stay tuned, more coming throughout the month.

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Filed under Cancer, Health Topics, Self-Care

Are Our Children Seeing As Well As They Should?

In just over a month, our children will be returning to school. Many of us are already shopping for school clothes, protect our children's eyesightsupplies, and everything our kids need to have a good start to the school year.

But success in school in not just based on what we buy for them. It’s how we protect them too. One of the most valuable assets our children have is their eyesight. When was the last time your little ones had an eye exam?

August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, and it is important to invest the time it take to make sure all our children are seeing 20/20–even if it means they must wear glasses.

I started wearing glasses at age 6, and it made a world of difference in my education and future success. That why I highly recommend that you follow this link to Prevent Blindness America to learn more about children’s eye screening, and information on eye health resources in your area. Don’t delay! Your child’s future is bright–if they can see it.

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Filed under Health Topics

40% of African American Women Are Obese. Why Should You Care?

Overweight African American womanBecause obesity is the single greatest risk factor for stroke, heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers! Being overweight and obese is making us sick!

According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), ” The prevalence of obesity in the United States has more than doubled in the past three decades..Black women had the greatest prevalence (39.2).”

What does it mean to be overweight or obese? It all comes down to Body Mass Index (BMI)–a formula that calculates the ratios of your age, height, and weight. To be considered overweight, your BMI would be between 25 and 29.9. Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher. To calculate your BMI, us this BMI Calculator from the CDC.

By losing just 10 percent of your current body weight, you can reduce your risk of these diseases substantially. At WHOLE Express we do not endorse fad dieting that deprives your body of essential nutrition just to take excess weight off quickly. Rather, focus on taking it off gradually with quality nutrition, exercise, and along the way learning new behaviors to keep it off.

That’s what WHOLE Body Living is all about: learning behaviors to help you attain and sustain optimal health. Our monthly e-newsletter WHOLE offers easy-to-adopt resources to help you create a plan specifically tailored to your needs and circumstances. Please have a look at WHOLE and consider subscribing–it’s free!

And keep tuning into this blog WHOLE Express too–you’ll want to subscribe to an RSS feed to make sure you won’t miss any posts. We’ll regularly give you quick tips for keeping on track with your healthier lifestyle goals.

Overweight sistah on the beachSistahs, we all don’t need to become rail thin to become healthier. But enough is enough! It’s time to make some changes–your health depends on it. Let’s work on that together, okay?

Question: What changes are you going to make to help lose weight and become healthier?

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Filed under Health Topics