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How can we improve black women's health and life expectancy?

25 replies

penelopepitstopsgain · 18/01/2021 13:15

Having had 2 Aunts die suddenly from heart attacks in the USA last year, I was shocked to discover that almost 50% of black women have cardiovascular ill health linked to weight, diet and exercise (or lack thereof).

bwhi.org/2018/02/12/heart-disease-black-women-big-issue-might-not-know/

Looking closer to home studies such as this one ;
onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-277X.2011.01198.x

Reveal that black women are more likely to be overweight than white women but were less likely to do anything about it.
Excerpt below;
Black women were as well‐informed about the causes and health risks of obesity as white women in this sample of mainly educated, working women, although they were more accepting of larger body sizes and experienced less social pressure to be slim.

With our existing predication towards diabetes and hypertension (not to mention covid 19 and the link to comorbidities) what do you think we need to do to get the message across that being overweight is not to be celebrated?

Alarmingly when I speak to my young neices they talk of boyfriends liking their "thick" shape as a reason not to diet !!

I see fitness as vital as air and could not imagine life without exercising but I know for some it's a struggle but I wonder if they are aware of how bad the situation is.

What other steps do you take or do you think should be taken to increase our quality and quantity of life?

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maggiethecat · 19/01/2021 15:23

@penelopepitstopsgain
While I've known about our predisposition toward diabetes, hypertension and resulting cardiovascular issues I'm surprised by the statistic quoted.

Information campaign via SM, community organisers, church would be a start. Healthy lifestyle education in schools, even though not race specific, should also be encouraging good diet and exercise.

Young women can exercise and be healthy without looking stick thin and in any event we should be encouraging them to make lifestyle choices for their own benefit rather than what their men would prefer them to look like 🙄

And we shouldn't ignore the importance of mental well being and reducing stress.

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Soma · 19/01/2021 16:32

@penelopepitstopsgain , thank you for sharing. I think many Black woman carry a mental load, that lots of white woman do not have to consider, and may "medicate" through food, as opposed to drugs and alcohol. Even professional, highly successful Black woman know they have to better than their non Black counterparts - times X number. This alone must be draining. The Black woman I know fall into dozens of sizes and body shapes, even the ones that are very overweight do some exercise.

We all know that stress is a killer, how can the stress that is almost unique to Black women be reduced?

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penelopepitstopsgain · 19/01/2021 16:54

One of the most startling things I read, as I researched this, was that even when socio economic factors are taken into account, black women just through their daily existence, suffer more stress and this wear and tear takes its toll and takes years off us.

This conversation is not about fat shaming, but if life is a marathon it's akin to us trying to run it with a leg and arm tied behind us.

I was with one Auntie in Jamaica the year before she died and she looked so well I couldn't believe when I heard the news- so this is a silent killer that deserves much more focus and whilst issues such as BLM, police brutality who our black men choose to date etc are important and topical, they are not going to claim 50% of the sisterhood!

I really want to look into how we can educate re the risks and then find ways integrate getting and staying active into black family life.

I cycle, swim, run, skate and more and I rarely see another black face when doing so, and I'm in London! That needs to change for our future's sake.

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PompomDahlia · 20/01/2021 18:19

Alice Randall is a US writer who has tackled the issue of black women and weight - she wrote a novel, Ada's Rules, about the subject and got some criticism for it here

@Soma - the mental load thing is a huge one IMO. Constantly worrying about how people perceive you, worrying about not being taken seriously by medical professionals etc. I went to a talk given at a black professional network and the question came up of the 'burden' that successful women face in that as well as being brilliant, they also have to raise other black women up as well. Certainly, women in my family were constantly on the go with community meetings, charity work, on top of busy jobs, with little time for just sitting down for a rest, never mind exercise and wellbeing. The 'black excellence' mindset is both a blessing and a curse.

I also think that generational trauma is huge for us as black women. So many of our parents/grandparents went through real trauma in the severe racism they faced and how hard they had to struggle in the early days over here. Not to mention even worse trauma a few generations before that. This sometimes isn't talked about in families, which can be really damaging. I've encountered a stoic attitude and unwillingness to engage in therapy because they're so used to life being hard. I think this has a huge impact on our mental health.

@penelopepitstopsgain - I agree that exercise can be such a white space. I live in S London and it can be rare to see black women running. There are some brilliant groups trying to change this - FlyGirl Collective, We Run We Eat (podcast) and lots of online influencers. It's so important to see others who look like you exercising. I was SO self conscious at school about my figure (classic big bum/hips) because there were few people who looked like me. As I've got older I'm much more accepting and learning to exercise for general health and wellbeing, not to fit an external beauty standard, but it took years to develop confidence in gym classes where white girls would see me as a 'before picture'.

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TouchMyToe · 06/10/2021 09:40

A lot of points here mentioned resonated with me. I'm a black female Chartered Accountant and work-related stress has been insurmountable. I'm good at what i do , i've had to work twice as hard as my white male counterparts and i've had to alter my personality to not be seen as "aggressive". The end result? I make shit loads of money which i spend on private healthcare to manage stress-related diseases. I cycle, run, do yoga, meditate, go on expensive breaks but these have not been enough to manage the stress. I'm actually afraid and don't expect to live past mid 60ish

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TheBlackDarner · 06/10/2021 12:05

Work life balance.
Health is more important than money. What's the point in making " shit loads of money" to prop up stress related illness?
Slow right down. Review how you work. Change job. Work for yourself. Stop suppresssing your personality and stop working for idiots. You are an intellignt woman, you have a strong skill set. You have choices that others don't. The answer is in your own hands.

When a warning light comes on the dash board of your car. You don't keep driving. you get it fixed. Stop ignoring the warning lights.

Look after yourself, change the dynamic, your health is precious.

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debbrianna · 06/10/2021 16:33

APETAMIN is the next big scandal for black women who are searching for BBL waiting yo happen . It won't be thought off as big news but it will affect a lot of us due to peer pressure. We all want to be lovedđŸ˜©

www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-56930654.amp

NHS England has urged Instagram to clamp down on accounts selling an unlicensed, "dangerous" drug mainly targeted at younger women and girls.

The sale of Apetamin is illegal in the UK, but BBC Three revealed it is available in shops and online.

I first came across when somone offered it to me for child who was not eating. I didn't use. However, the child they showed me as an example of somone who didn't eat. That child is now obese.

When I saw that popped up on my timeliness it shocked me. If I hadn't thought it through, this could have caused harm on my child.

Apparently, it's used widely in Nigeria . Biggest market USA

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EchoNan · 07/10/2021 21:05

Debbriana excellent and thoughtful post.
We've a little one here who is really on the slim side, perfecty healthy, and there has been pressure on her mother about this. Luckily, her mother is wise to it.
I too, was really shocked to learn about it. All these social influencers must be on some sort of kick back. They don't say it can cause jaundice, and liver failure,

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TouchMyToe · 08/10/2021 07:51

I agree, @debbrianna we need to educate our young women on the dangers of this drug. Black women are attractive, naturally curvy, even when slim. Back in the day we ate provision to "thicken" up. Maybe we should go back to that?

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EchoNan · 08/10/2021 09:07

Women should not feel they should "thicken" up at all.
The pressures on black women, hair, be curvy and so on, We should be encouraging young women to love themselves as they are, and support them to be healthy and confident in themselves We need to shake off this thicken up and influencer big business. It is not healthy, and we need to educate ourselves too, to do this.

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EchoNan · 08/10/2021 09:30

I was trying to find a UK that is relevant here, but struggling. Pages and pages of "curvy black women" images on an engine search.

This article ime is worth reading, to see what the issues are.
I'm supposed to be thick

"Prior literature on Black women’s body image heavily relies on comparative studies to confirm Black women’s greater body satisfaction relative to white women. Collectively, these studies argue that “cultural buffers” exempt Black women from the thin ideal and instead, encourage women to embrace thickness as a mark of racial pride.

And while the literature largely establishes Black women’s preference for a curvaceous figure, I take a different approach by examining women who describe failing to embody thickness and how they reconcile this conflict. Thus, this article asks how women negotiate body dissatisfaction when violating racialized bodily ideals.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with 31 Black American women of diverse body sizes and shapes, I demonstrate how women rely on discursive frameworks such as healthism and the “strong Black woman” ideology to reconcile their self-image. While these discourses enable women to defend criticisms of violating thickness, they also participate in stigmatizing other forms of embodiment in their attempts to assuage body dissatisfaction. Overall, these findings reveal Black women’s agency to challenge idealized–and essentialized–notions of thickness that weighed heavily on their body image. Lastly, I discuss the broader implications of my findings within the literature of body politics and offer suggestions for future research."

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EchoNan · 08/10/2021 09:31

*UK link ( first line)

(Sorry, in middle of something else, apols for typos)

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TouchMyToe · 08/10/2021 09:54

@EchoNan

Women should not feel they should "thicken" up at all.
The pressures on black women, hair, be curvy and so on, We should be encouraging young women to love themselves as they are, and support them to be healthy and confident in themselves We need to shake off this thicken up and influencer big business. It is not healthy, and we need to educate ourselves too, to do this.

If we repudiate the "thicken up" standard then the alternative would be for young black women to be thrust into the western world's idealism of beauty.
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Ozanj · 08/10/2021 10:02

I think BMI itself is problematic for women of colour. Some black women are healthier at higher than white person normal BMIs, others at lower than white person normal BMIs. But the white standard doesn’t really fit. Same applies for South Asian women too. And I do think that as well as increased life stress, less meaningful access to healthcare, medical professionals not recognising our pain, is the reason why there is such a disparity.

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RedMarauder · 08/10/2021 10:04

If we repudiate the "thicken up" standard then the alternative would be for young black women to be thrust into the western world's idealism of beauty.

We shouldn't accept any body standard as neither of them are healthy.

Many black girls and young women are very skinny naturally but tsome of our bodies change shape due to age and pregnancy.

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EchoNan · 08/10/2021 10:10

@Ozanj

I think BMI itself is problematic for women of colour. Some black women are healthier at higher than white person normal BMIs, others at lower than white person normal BMIs. But the white standard doesn’t really fit. Same applies for South Asian women too. And I do think that as well as increased life stress, less meaningful access to healthcare, medical professionals not recognising our pain, is the reason why there is such a disparity.

I agree. No expert by any means, but BMI has so many problems, it really is outdated. It's origins date back to some mathematical formula from the 1830s.
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EchoNan · 08/10/2021 10:20

We shouldn't accept any body standard as neither of them are healthy
Yes, Red absolutely this.

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TouchMyToe · 08/10/2021 10:45

I think we need to teach the younger generation how to overcome adversity and how to be resilient to improve mental health outcomes.

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TouchMyToe · 08/10/2021 10:54

The one advice i would give would be to put your own health above any job-related stress...walk away. Have a strong network of friends or other support system. Enjoy life, laugh, exercise, listen to your body. Say no when you need to.

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EchoNan · 08/10/2021 11:52

@TouchMyToe re your first post here, upthread. Are you able to make any changes to your own lifestyle? You seem overwhelmed with stress in it. I hope that you can start to improve things for yourself.

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PlanDeRaccordement · 08/10/2021 12:11

Systemic racism in healthcare also contributes to the poor heart health in minority women, especially black women.

In the US black women are less likely to have access to any healthcare. Even if they do, often their symptoms are dismissed or ignored by doctors.

One study using videos of a simulated patient with exact same clinical symptoms presented to doctors found that when the patient was white they were twice as likely to be referred for cardiac catheterisation than when they were portrayed as African American. (And we already know that women with cardiac symptoms are often ignored compared to men with cardiac symptoms...so black women are ignored the most of all)

This book has a litany of studies showing systemic racism in healthcare. The video study I mentioned is on p17.
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425845/?report=reader

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EchoNan · 08/10/2021 13:43

@PlanDeRaccordement. I'm diligently reading my way through your link. So much to think about. I haven't finished, but struggling to find the link on page 17 to the video study. If you get a few minutes, can you just double check? It's probably glaringly obvious, but I'm not seeing it. Thanks.Smile

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PlanDeRaccordement · 08/10/2021 23:05

@EchoNan
My link takes you to page 1 of the book. Hopefully the screen looks same on your device as mine, but the tab to scroll forward page by page is on bottom left. I have circled it in the screen shot. Page 17 is where the video study I mentioned in my post was briefly mentioned. I only included it because OPs post was focusing on heart health. So thought it very relevant.

I have cut and pasted the text

“In a video-based study conducted among primary care providers, the odds ratio of providers referring simulated African American patients to otherwise identical white patients for cardiac catheterization was 0.6 (Schulman et al., 1999).“

I rounded and inverted it, 0.6 is basically saying African Americans referred at approx half the rate of white people, ergo white people referred are twice the rate of African Americans.

How can we improve black women's health and life expectancy?
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PlanDeRaccordement · 08/10/2021 23:08

I think I misunderstood your post/question. Sorry,
Here is the link to the video study referenced in the book:

The effect of race and sex on physicians' recommendations for cardiac catheterization
pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10029647/

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EchoNan · 09/10/2021 10:21

@PlanDeRaccordement. Thanks so much for that. That's so helpful. appreciate your efforts there, and links. Flowers

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