The epidemic of Heart disease, Stroke & Diabetes among black women
I’m from the south where we eat cornbread, collard greens, fatback, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, pigs feet, and chitlins. For myself and many other black people raised in the south especially, soul food is central to our cultural experience. For generations, Black women are the matriarchs who have been in the kitchen making huge meals from little to nothing. Sadly though, what we’ve come to love continues to be the main cause of most of our health problems we deal with today in modern black America. But as I look at growing trends online and seeing new blog posts from both influencers and media brands such as Essence Magazine who have created content around health-driven topics, and other such platforms that cater to the health of black women, I wonder if the next generation of matriarchs are turning things around by taking care of their bodies and shifting how they view and consume food daily?
I can’t lie, I absolutely love the intoxicating aroma of meals around the holidays because it feels like home. Most holidays, and even year round, women are the ones who dictate the family's diet. When I was young, my mom was is in the kitchen with the other grown folk while us kids were tearing up the living room, watching movies, or outside playing childhood games. When the food is FINALLY ready we quickly line up and begin to scarf down about 2-3 plates each. This was my childhood, and although I didn’t eat like this everyday, I became comfortable with eating junk food and any kind of snack while watching T.V.
Some of these foods, especially when eaten on a consistent basis, are the root cause of heart disease, stroke and diabetes amongst black women. It’s sad to me when I see an older person still eating the same food they’ve been eating since they were young, and then having to be injected with insulin because their blood sugar levels are dangerously high. Or, and I’m sure we’ve all witnessed this, being around your family and hearing everyone talk about their long list of health problems while chewing on the main cause of said problem. These learned and unbroken behaviors have created a pattern of numbly eating food that are killing the ones we love.
Nearly 7.6% black women suffer from heart disease, in contrast to 5.8% White Women, and 5.6% Mexican-American Women according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2016, 46 of every 100,000 black died of a stroke compared to 35 of 100,000 White Women.
For me, food has always been about the ambiance and experience of taking raw materials and finessing a whole meal of deliciousness. But now, as I become more conscious of my own well-being and the health issues that exist in my lineage, I’ve taken a step back and re-evaluated how I go about crafting meals. I believe life is about moderation and balance. Soul food and the southern tradition of preparing a hearty meal will always be a part of my DNA, but it should be eaten once in a blue moon, or upgraded to provide that good comfort without being so heavy and sugar-coma inducing. I’m trying this new thing where I’m holding myself accountable and taking responsibility for how I live my life, not just the things I do and say, but what I nourish my body with. Lately my diet has been a mix of healthy, and complete junk food, but I want to make healthy eating a permanent lifestyle and not so every other dayish.
Flashback to college where I ate everything under the sun, including the sun itself. I had a bad case of fomo, and a serious sweet tooth which led to many late nights with my friends making Walmart trips (for us southerners), and creating the most unhealthy and indulgent food combinations. Now that I’ve hit my mid-twenties the reality of how I allowed myself to eat in college has really hit hard. I feel so disappointed in the way I completely neglected my health chasing memories and “good-times”, but I’m not going to keep beating myself up either. I’m evaluating where I was, where I am, and where I want to be in deciding how to approach my health journey.
Before I moved to NY last year, I was cooking regularly while living at home. I made everything, and I made it with love. I also was starting to do smoothies and make more salads (may have used more sauce than needed, I’m still a work in progress). I want to continue that tradition of cooking with love, but with more mindfulness and while adding more nutritional value to my food.
The body is truly our temple, and although I’ve been on this rollercoaster of on and off again healthy eating and health awareness, the reality is that I’m tired of struggling with something I feel I can actually change through small daily adjustments and by getting my mind and body to crave more healthy sweets and snacks (I LOVE TO SNACK). Can you imagine climbing one flight of stairs and not being out of breathe, or coming back from lunch at work and not feeling drowsy and ready for a good nap? I’m ready to feel light and full of energy everyday. I’ve already researched detox programs, and would even like to do some serious cleansing.
We all know social media is only a tiny lense into someone’s life and doesn’t always represent the full scope of one group who may be following a trend or even living one specific lifestyle compared to many others. I can’t say definitively that there’s a huge shift in black women’s health for my generation or the one behind me, but I am becoming aware from my own social media peer view that women who look like me are gaining self awareness, doing self-care, and addressing their health. It is so beautiful when I can go on my feed and there are beautiful black women whose skin is glowing, who are proudly sharing their before and after pictures of their weight loss journey, and to see new creative smoothie recipes that allow you to feel good and look great.
As for this summer, this weather gone get whatever body I give it, but right now I’m focusing on the internal, the emotional, and things I can do daily to be more consistent with my food choices.
Here’s my personal accountability list and steps I’m taking to become MY version of healthy:
*I’m on step 2*
1. Start with Love & Self-Awareness
2. Take responsibility for where you currently are.
3. Make conscious decisions: McDonald’s or meal prep?
4. Take action: gym or dance classes?
5. Pour in some more Love.
6. Find your tribe of health freaks.
7. Be consistent, try not to to overdo it, make small changes, and don’t beat yourself up when you have an off day.
8. Womanhood: *The exception/the menstrual cycle. Find healthy ways to feed your monthly bloody-versary cravings so that your cramps will not be too intense and you can still satisfy that urge to shove food down your throat every 5 seconds.
9. And lastly, another dose of self-love.
Her Image Contributor