Commentary: Black Men, Please Start Taking Your Health More Seriously

Commentary: Black Men, Please Start Taking Your Health More Seriously

The recent deaths of Patrice O'Neal and Heavy D highlight the importance of Black men being proactive in their health.

Published December 5, 2011

Within the past few weeks we have lost two well-loved celebrities: rapper Heavy D and comedian Patrice O'Neil.


And while it's not confirmed as to what the rapper died of — complications of recently diagnosed pneumonia or something else — what we do know is that the beloved rapper struggled with morbid obesity for most of his life weighing at times over 400 pounds. Yet, in 2002, the self-proclaimed" overweight lover" shed 135 pounds, but at the time of his death reported that that he weighed 344 pounds, yet was working to lose weight and eat better.


A few weeks ago, the Boston Globe published an article about whether Heavy D's obesity may have played a role in his death. Health experts stating that being morbidly obese brings about health risks that are not just heart disease, diabetes and liver disease, but that being obese can also lower your immune system and impact one's lung disease.


Unlike Heavy D, it's been confirmed what O'Neil died from: Complications to a stroke that he suffered in October that was related to his long battle with diabetes.


What’s also really sad is that both of these men were relatively young, passing on in their early to mid 40s and will be terribly missed.


If anything, I hope that their tragic deaths serve as a wake-up call for Black men: You are not invincible as you may think and that poor health in one's youth and young adulthood will somehow catch up later down the line. And when it does, it can pay the price with your life.


And I want to be clear. That in no way, is it my intention to be insensitive or blame Heavy D and O'Neil for their own deaths.


It cannot be denied that there are some serious barriers to attaining good health—lack of access to quality health care, Black men are more likely to have jobs that do not offer health insurance, systematic poverty, urban areas void of healthy affordable foods, etc. Heck, just a few months ago a study suggested that Black men have better health care in prison than do in the outside world.


But we would be naïve to not acknowledge that in many instances our own mentality serves as a barrier to why we are not as healthy as we should be. And the stats reflect this:


—Black men live 7.5 years less than other racial groups


—Black men are 3 times less likely to have routine medical checkups than Black women


—Black men have a higher rate of death from oral cancer than other racial groups


—Forty  percent of Black men die prematurely from cardiovascular disease as compared to 22 percent of Caucasian men

—African American men are 5 times more likely to die of HIV/AIDS


It’s not a secret that that getting our men to the doctor and start taking their health seriously can be as difficult as winning the lottery. We as a community have to better to urge our men to work harder, even at younger ages, and men need to step up and empower themselves to make a health a priority.


Because we don't always have as much time as we think we do.


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


BET Health News - We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. and around the world.

(Photo: Jose Luis Pelaez/Getty)

Written by Kellee Terrell


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