During the first week of February, African American Heritage and Health Week celebrates the foods, flavors, and cooking traditions of the African diet. Created in 2011, the African Heritage Diet is a plant-based, colorful diet that can be used by African Americans to live a healthier lifestyle.
During African American Heritage and Health Week, not only are the flavors of traditional African cuisine fully celebrated but also the health concerns of many African Americans are also addressed.
7 Common Health Concerns for African Americans
Heart disease is a leading cause of death for all Americans, and stroke is a leading cause of death for African Americans. Statistics show that the death rate was declining steadily until the 1970s, but not so for African Americans.
High Blood Pressure
Compared to other ethnicities, African Americans are usually more likely to suffer adversely from high blood pressure or hypertension. They are more likely at an increased risk of stroke and heart disease from high blood pressure.
African-Americans are disproportionately affected by obesity. According to the American Heart Association, among non-Hispanic blacks age 20 and older, 69% of men and 82% of women are overweight or obese.
Diabetes is another risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke, and African Americans are 60% more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.
A third of African-American men and women will be diagnosed with cancer, which is the second most common cause of death.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
African Americans are much more likely to suffer from peripheral artery disease (PAD) than any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S. This has been linked to conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Sickle Cell Disease (SCD)
Although the number of people suffering from sickle cell disease (SCD), a genetic blood disorder, is not known with certainty, it is estimated that roughly 1 in 13 African American babies is carrying the sickle cell trait (SCT) that results in sickle cell disease.
Bone marrow or stem cell transplants are the only means of curing this disease, but they can be extremely costly, and even have serious side effects. More funding for this disease is needed.
Poverty, lack of healthcare access, poor diet, or genetic factors can be linked to these health concerns. However, these can all be remedied with preventive care and an active lifestyle that helps celebrate your heritage and community.
Ideas to Celebrate African American Heritage and Health Week
1) Check up with your doctor
The health care system isn’t prepared to deal with the unique needs of African Americans, as they are less likely to receive preventive care than their white counterparts. However, it is important to urge friends and family to seek preventative care services and get professional medical care yourself.
2) Cook a new dish
Find out how to cook and eat traditional African dishes with your family during African Heritage and Health Week. Many of them are healthy and nutritious, so you can have more fun discovering your heritage with a rich culinary tradition.
3) Share your meal with family and friends
It may feel isolating to be physically away from those you love during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are far apart, you can still celebrate the week and make memories together by dropping off food at their homes or cooking traditional African recipes together on a video call with you.
During African Heritage and Health Week, you have the chance to learn more about improving your health as well as for your circle of family and friends to stay connected to each other.