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Your Health is Your Wealth

Earl "Butch" Graves Jr., President & CEO, Black Enterprise

Earl "Butch" Graves Jr., President & CEO, Black Enterprise

I recently read a powerful quote that has stuck with me. It was a statement related to the obesity problem that consumes our nation: “We are slowly digging our graves with a knife and fork.” I can think of no assertion that more accurately reflects the condition faced by large numbers of African Americans. To be blunt: Due to our dietary habits and inactive lifestyles, African Americans—including some of my family members, friends, and colleagues—disproportionately place ourselves in harm’s way. And the sad truth is that we have the power to control the outcome.

If you think I’m being too harsh, just review the statistics on the status of African Americans’ waistlines. According to the Office of Minority Health, we are 1.5 times more likely to become obese than whites. The agency also found that African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese versus other groups in the U.S.; about four out of five African American women are overweight or obese. This trend extends to our children as well: they are 30% more likely to become overweight than whites.

Our tendency to contract debilitating, life-threatening diseases is directly linked to eating habits and lack of exercise. Medical research bears out this conclusion, and the impact on our individual and collective well-being has been devastating. We are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as whites, and suffer complications from diabetes, including renal failure and lower extremity amputations. African American women are 35% more susceptible to heart disease than white women. While African Americans have the same rate of high cholesterol, we are 50% more prone to suffer a stroke than our white adult counterparts.

This prognosis should raise an alarm; bringing home the realization that ultimately our health represents our wealth. If we don’t commit to being fit then we cannot be at our most productive at home or in the workplace. If sidelined by a long-term ailment, you will quickly find your wealth-building prospects diminished and your bank account depleted by hefty medical bills—the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy. This scenario has befallen hundreds who have reached their peak earning years—that is, if they lived long enough to enjoy them.

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