Racism Increases Risk of Obesity in Black Women
Enduring racism — either through toxic remarks or attitudes encountered in daily life — increases the risk that a black woman will become obese. The newly published study, conducted by researchers at the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), found that the racism-obesity link was strongest among women who were the target of discrimination over a 12-year period.
To understand the impact of prejudice on weight gain, BWHS scientists, led by Yvette Cozier, D.Sc., followed 4,315 incidences of obesity from 1997 to 2009. A survey was used to assess racist experiences, asking study participants to respond to statements such as “people act as if you are dishonest” and “were you treated unfairly on the job?” They were also asked about experiences such as receiving poor service while shopping or dealing with police.
The women who reported the most frequent instances of everyday racism were 69 percent more likely to become obese when compared with those who reported the lowest number of racist encounters. “Experiences of racism may explain in part the high prevalence of obesity among African-American women,” Cozier says.
BWHS researchers explain that the findings are not that unusual when the overall effect of dealing with racism is considered. “Racial discrimination is a form of chronic stress that has harmful effects on mental health, and there is increasing recognition that it can also affect physical health. In both animal and human studies, stress-driven eaters have been found to prefer food rich in fats or to increase food intake,” they wrote in a recent issue of the Black Women’s Health Study newsletter.
Previous research, unrelated to the BWHS work, has found a strong correlation between experiencing stress and becoming obese among men and women of all races. Cozier advises that taking a community- and workplace-based approach to addressing and stopping racism may have an important, positive effect on health.
5 Tips That May Save Your Life
As diseases go, colorectal cancer is high on the list of problems no one wants to talk about. But for African-American women, having a serious conversation about preventing colorectal cancer may protect your life or the life of someone you love. Why? Black women and men have the highest rate of colorectal cancer in the United States, and we are also the group most likely to die from this highly preventable disease.
“For the most part, colorectal cancer is a curable and preventable disease,” says Jeffrey Meyerhardt, M.D., M.P.H., clinical director of the Dana-Farber Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center. “It is a cancer where we have very good data that shows screening prevents disease and saves lives.”
Screening leads to early detection and treatment — the key to curing the disease. But a 2010 study found that many black Americans feel they are at low risk for colorectal cancer, less likely to know about a family history of cancer and less likely to get screened.
But in this case, forewarned is definitely forearmed. To commemorate March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, here’s some key advice for preventing the disease:
1. Know the top risk factors:
▪ Race: Some experts recommend that black Americans have their first colonoscopy at 45, rather than 50 (the general advice) because our risk is so high.
▪ A family history of colon or rectal cancer.
▪ A personal history of cancer in the colon, rectum, ovary or endometrium.
▪ A history of polyps (small pieces of bulging tissue) in the colon or rectum.
▪ Having ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
▪ Obesity or being sedentary.
▪ Diet, especially eating a lot of red and processed meat. Some studies have found that a high-fiber diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables may be protective.
2. Discuss these important tests with your doctor when you are 45, then get your baseline screening:
▪ Fecal occult blood test.
▪ A double-contrast Barium enema (lower GI series).
▪ A sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy or a virtual colonoscopy.
3. Keep up with screenings:
You should be screened at least once every 10 years, but your risk increases with age and other risk factors such as those listed here. So make sure you ask your doctor if you should be screened more frequently.
4. Know the symptoms:
One of the most common signs of colorectal cancer is a change in bowel habits or blood in the stool. Others include:
▪ Diarrhea, constipationor feeling that the bowel does not empty completely.
▪ Stools that are narrower than usual.
▪ Frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness or cramps.
▪ Weight loss for no known reason.
▪ Persistent tiredness.
5. Don’t Smoke. Research shows it will increase your risk.
Beat Daylight Saving Time Fatigue
Come Monday morning, a lost hour of rest may seem like a high price to pay for an extra hour of sunshine. But it’s that time of year again. At 2 a.m. on Sunday March 9, clocks were moved forward one hour.
It does not seem like a lot of time, but it can leave some people groggy in the morning or just thrown off their usual rhythm, explains Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Center specialist Kelly Brown, M.D. It’s especially tough for “night owls or people who already have sleep disorders,” she says.
What’s the trick to feeling better? Brown recommends you stick to your normal sleep schedule during the weekend. Brown also offers these tips for easing the transition to daylight saving time:
▪ Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the evening as both are stimulants.
▪ Chill before bedtime with a hot bath or good book.
▪ Create a bedroom comfort zone; keep the room cool and dark.
▪ Workout in the morning sunlight on the weekend of the time change. Remember, a lack of sleep not only affects your mood and cognitive ability, it can wreak havoc on your appearance. Beauty sleep is no old wives’ tale, so be sure to get your fair share of zzz’s.