June 2012 - Father's Day Special

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"If only our love could protect Black men from their biggest threats: poor health followed too often by senseless early deaths."

If we didn’t have enough examples - our daddies, brothers, husbands and sons – Barack Obama has exploded onto the world stage to again remind Black women why we love Black men. With moves as smooth as the Temptation’s, good looks as vulnerable, strong and sweet as Denzel’s and voices as dark with purpose and courage as Malcom’s and Martin’s, Barack and all Black men have a permanent hold on our hearts. If only our love could protect them from their biggest threats: poor health followed too often by senseless early deaths.

Tragically, African American men die earlier – six and a half years earlier – than White men. A Black man’s life expectancy is 68.2 years compared to White men at 74.8 years. Black men have higher death rates than women in all leading causes of death. Forty percent die prematurely from cardiovascular diseases and Black men are five times more likely to die from HIV/AIDS. Black men have sky-high rates of diabetes and prostate cancer. Forty-four percent are considered overweight and 24% are obese. The list goes on.

Can we love our Black men into good health and longer lives? Maybe. But for men (and women) committing to good health practices is a deeply personal choice. So as Father’s Day approaches, the best gifts we can offer our men are tools of knowledge and encouragement to help them triumph over ill health and early death.

Here are an important few:

  • Get a Doctor Finding quality, affordable healthcare is hard, but not impossible. Make the effort to identify a primary care doctor and health team who meet your needs. Even with few financial resources, good public and non-profit health clinics exist in every community – search them out and ask others for referrals. If you’re totally without health insurance, check out the Foundation for Health Coverage Education to help get the coverage you need and can afford. Regard your search as a treasure hunt because a concerned and competent physician is better than platinum – he will be your best ally in maintaining good health.
  • Make & Keep Appointments Once you’ve found a doctor, see him regularly! Unlike women, many men must be prodded and coached to get regular check-ups. Is it fear or the threat of appearing weak? Whatever the reasons, Black men, get over yourselves! The impact of most diseases can be lessened or eliminated with early detection and treatment – both of which are impossible if you refuse to see a doctor or have regular health screenings.
  • Take Your Medicine Follow your doctor’s orders. Take all medications as prescribed and don’t improvise – that means don’t take more or less than the prescribed amount or supplement your meds with herbs, vitamins or over the counter drugs without consulting your physician first.
  • Know Your Body If you have a developing health problem, it’s likely your body will let you know even before your doctor knows. Don’t ignore unexplained headaches, bleeding, persistent pain or any other signals that something may be wrong. And don’t attempt to self-diagnose. You know the old expression, “It’s a fool who has himself for a doctor!”
  • Love Yourself Finally, give your body, mind and spirit all the care and attention you deserve. Guard against unnecessary stress and know that you’re never less a man because you show the courage to avoid violence. The women and children who love and depend on you are also ready to honor and support you. Support us by living the longest, healthiest life you can. Let’s all grow old together to enjoy a hundred more Father’s Days to come!

With you on your Journey to Wellness,
Dr. Mary S. Harris

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