Back-to-school time often gets us back into a routine. And it’s a great time to think about our health. We talked to a few experts to find out some things African Americans specifically should look out for while taking care of our health.
Fibroids and Black Women
While some of the major health issues like heart and kidney disease, cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, sick cell disease, and lupus are among the more serious health problems Black people face, uterine fibroids in African-American women are also an issue.
Though uterine fibroids typically are not life threatening, the level of pain, and interruption of daily life, calls for attention.
While fibroids typically are noncancerous growths of the uterus that often appear during childbearing years, it’s not known for sure what causes them. They reportedly grow rapidly during pregnancy when hormone levels are high and shrink with anti-hormone medication.
Just as it is with the diseases mentioned previously, studies show that African-American woman are three times more likely to develop uterine fibroids than other women, and are more likely to develop them at an earlier age with more significant symptoms.
When asked if he could shed some light on why African-American women are at higher risk for uterine fibroids, Paramjit “Romi” Chopra, MD, founder of The Midwest Institute of Minimally Invasive Therapies in Melrose Park that specializes in treating uterine fibroids in a minimally invasive manner said, “There are a lot of studies but not one clear reason why. Things like genetics, diet and some studies say hair chemicals could be a factor,” Chopra added.
Symptoms include excessive bleeding, pain, bathroom use and pain with sex.
Dr. Chopra said too often physicians resort to removing the uterus as a way to resolve the problem and that 80 percent of women end up with hysterectomies when it’s not necessary. He said less invasive options are available.
Chopra uses non-invasive to minimally invasive methods.
“If your fibroids do not cause symptoms, there is no need to treat them,” he said. “Your doctor may want to watch them and monitor for any fibroid growth at each of your annual gynecological examinations. Some women may have fibroids but not experience symptoms that affect their daily life.”
Chopra speaks at churches to educate Black women about uterine fibroids and his mind, body and spirit holistic approach when treating patients.
Black women, he said, should pay close attention to their diet, maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes proper self-care and exercise, get plenty of sleep and buy organic produce when possible as a way to avoid chemicals that could stimulate fibroid growth.
Chopra stressed also that Black women should be wary of hair chemicals and look for options other than hysterectomies.
A lot of Black women have already opted out of chemically processed styles and are embracing their own natural hair.
Other Health Facts
Though faced with myriad health disparities, the Centers for Disease Control reports African Americans are living longer.
The death rate for African Americans declined about 25 percent over 17 years, primarily for those aged 65 years and older.
However, even with these improvements, new data show younger African-Americans are living with or dying of many conditions typically found in White Americans at older ages.
The difference shows up in African Americans in their 20s, 30s, and 40s for diseases and causes of death.
When diseases start early, they can lead to death earlier, according to the CDC. Chronic diseases and some of the risk factors may be silent or not diagnosed during these early years.
Health disparities are often due to economic and social conditions that are more common among African-Americans than Whites. For example, African American adults are more likely to report they cannot see a doctor because of cost. Cultural factors also, play a role.
Information cited by WebMD, a medical reference website, show diabetes is 60 percent more common in Black Americans than in Whites. Blacks are up to 2.5 times more likely to suffer a limb amputation and up to 5.6 times more likely to suffer kidney disease than other people with diabetes.
- African-Americans are three times more likely to die of asthma than White Americans.
- Deaths from lung scarring – sarcoidosis – are 16 times more common among Blacks than among Whites.
- Despite lower tobacco exposure, Black men are 50 percent more likely than White men to get lung cancer.
- Strokes kill four times more 35- to 54-year-old Black Americans than White Americans. Blacks have nearly twice the first-time stroke risk of Whites.
- Blacks develop high blood pressure earlier in life — and with much higher blood pressure levels — than Whites. Nearly 42 percent of Black men and more than 45 percent of Black women aged 20 and older have high blood pressure.
- Cancer treatment is equally successful for all races. Yet Black men have a 40 percent higher cancer death rate than White men. African-American women have a 20 percent higher cancer death rate than White women.
To address the issue, the CDC suggests public health professionals can use proven programs to reduce disparities and barriers; work with other sectors, such as faith and community organizations, education, business, transportation, and housing, to create social and economic conditions that promote health starting in childhood; link more people to doctors, nurses, or community health centers to encourage regular and follow-up medical visits; and also develop and provide training for healthcare professionals to understand cultural differences in how patients interact with providers and the healthcare system.