National Women’s Check-Up Day: What Black Women Need to Know Before You See the Doctor

While healthcare inequity is prevalent in this county, there are ways to ensure that your mind and body receive the essential services they need.

In addition to staying on track with your upcoming nail appointment or that can’t-miss root touch-up, prioritize your health.

It’s no secret that health disparities in this country illustrate a system that has historically overlooked Black women. Still, our well-being matters, and that’s on period.

While going to the doctor might be daunting, it can also be an empowering experience that can forge a path to a healthier future. 

To prepare for your next visit, here are some tips that you might find helpful.

1. Make a list of things to discuss with your physician as you pay attention to your body.

2. During your visit, remember to ask questions.

3. Seek second opinions if necessary.

It can also be beneficial to take initiative in your health with precautions like limiting alcohol and cigarette use, along with daily stressors.

Still don’t know where to start? Don’t worry. We got you!

Here is a list of major health areas to inquire about during your next appointment with the doctor.

  • Vaginal Health

    Studies show that Black women are more susceptible to yeast infections and bacterial vaginitis due to an imbalanced vaginal microbiome. Black women are 51% more likely to suffer from that latter than white women. If left untreated, BV –which generally affects women 15-44– can cause preterm labor and a greater risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs). Unfortunately, most women are unaware when they have the infection.

    Another area to discuss with your doctor is cervical cancer. While Black women are less likely to be diagnosed with it as opposed to other races, Black women are more likely to die from the disease, per the National Cancer Institute.

  • Heart Health

    In a 2020 study conducted by the NCI, researchers discovered that cardiovascular disease affects nearly 50% of Black women, who also have the highest rates of hypertension, stroke, heart failure, and coronary artery disease in the United States.

    Alarmingly, 60% of young Black women over the age of 20 have cardiovascular disease. In a 2019 study, researchers determined chronic stress is a factor.

    “Black women have known the art of juggling all too well. From slavery to the present day, black women have remained the matriarchs and pillars of their families. Through the war on drugs and mass incarceration, black women have continued to uphold their responsibilities as caregivers, often caring for grandchildren and extended families, often on their own, while maintaining jobs and careers, marriages, and relationships among so many other things. The added burden of racial and sex discrimination and of socioeconomic adversity has contributed to a dangerous environmental exposure with effects that reach across generations,” as cited by Jolaade Kalinowski, Jacquelyn Y. Taylor and Tanya M. Spruill.

  • Gut Health

    Researchers from UC Davis in 2022 studied insulin resistance between Black and white women and found that cells in Black women are less responsive to insulin. The study also suggested that over time, this could result in type 2 diabetes.

    The study also concluded that Black women have a “greater relative abundance of another species, Actinobacteria, linked to “reduced insulin sensitivity and elevated inflammation.”

    Another area that can lead to an imbalanced gut is discrimination. Last year, Biological Psychiatry determined that racial biases can cause fluctuation in the gut biome.

    “Discrimination based on race or ethnicity had a lot to do with more inflammation in the body which led to changes in the microbiome which led to inflammatory response,” said Tien S. Dong, an assistant professor at UCLA who also co-authored the study.

  • Eye Health

    According to the NEI, Black women are at greater risk for eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. In contrast, more than 825,000 Black people have diabetic retinopathy of the latter. This number is expected to exceed 1 million cases by 2030. 

    Following cataracts, The Glaucoma Foundation reports that glaucoma –a progressive and degenerative disease of the optic nerve– is the leading cause of blindness in Black people. After the age of 35, Black people are encouraged to get screened for eye disease.

  • Reproductive Health

    In the United States, Black women are three to four times more likely to die during childbirth than white women, as reported by the NIH. One of the leading causes of maternal deaths worldwide in Black women is preeclampsia –a perinatal hypertensive disorder– that affects 60% more Black women than white women. 

    Due to the lack of facilities in healthcare deserts and the newly amended abortion laws in some states, Black women are more likely to skip appointments and necessary check-ups. Biased microaggressions in the healthcare industry also contribute to the rise of disproportionate care for Black women.

    Additionally, Johns Hopkins reports that after giving birth, Black women are likely to suffer from postpartum hemorrhage, blood clots, preterm birth, and low birth weight.

    The coverage gap remains an issue for Black women. Among insurers, Black women are 55% more likely to be uninsured compared to white women.

  • Mental Health

    Although the tide is turning in the way mental health is addressed in the black community, more needs to be done. While women are reportedly at least twice as likely to experience depression than men, Black women are 50% less likely to seek medical attention, as cited by JMU.

    The NIH reports that approximately “Approximately 7.5 million African Americans have a diagnosed mental illness, and up to 7.5 million more may be affected but are undiagnosed.” Factors such as “low-income jobs, multiple role strain, and health problems” were determined to galvanize mental instability.

  • Uterine Health

    Black women are more likely to suffer from severe uterine fibroids –a common noncancerous tumor that grows on the uterus– compared to white women, as reported by the NIH.

    Fibroids can also vary in number and size. While some can only be seen on a medical device, others can develop into the size of a grapefruit, as cited by the Mayo Clinic.

    Symptoms can affect menstrual cycles in various ways, including heavy and/or painful periods and longer and/or more frequent menses. Other effects on the body include pelvic pressure or pain, stomach pain, frequent urination and/or trouble urinating, stomach growth area that is not the result of pregnancy, constipation, lower back pain, and pain during sex.

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