(Photo: Courtesy hilarybeard.com)
How often do you really put your health first? Better yet, do you even know how?
A new book, Health First!: The Black Woman's Wellness Guide, aims at providing Black women and girls with knowledge and encouragement to stop neglecting their health in order to change the course of their lives.
BET.com caught up with Hilary Beard, the book's co-author, to talk about the book's goals, why younger women need to be engaged in making lifestyle changes and why we all need to make our health come first in our lives.
BET.com: Why is this book about Black women's health so important?
Hilary Beard: While it’s the age of Michelle Obama, Oprah and the Internet, a lot of Black women are suffering and are in trouble, especially around their health. Culturally, we have this tradition of taking care of other people, instead of helping ourselves, so this is why we named the book Health First, to help Black women understand that their own health matters too.
Many single Black mothers cannot afford to be sick, they cannot afford for their children to be sick and they cannot afford to take a day off of work to go to the doctor.
We hope that this book will spark a dialogue that if we take our health first, we are in better shape to take care of all the people we love and who love us.
Why should teens and younger Black women begin thinking about their health in their teens and 20s, as opposed to waiting until they are older?
Health is a process, not an event. So the choices that you make as a teenager, 20s, 30s, have consequences and can play out later on, or sooner than you would think. Just look at weight. Our teenage girls are more likely to enter their teenage years heavier than other folks and that increases over time. In their 20s they go from being curvaceous to their 30s to having children or they are not as active as they were before, and so they start gaining weight and cannot control it.
And honestly, we don't even realize that we are making some of these choices that are detrimental to our health, because we see other people around us doing the same thing, and we think that's just the way it is. But now we are seeing diseases such as diabetes and strokes that people in their 20s are suffering from, not just people in their 40s and 50s.
Health First walks us through the many different stages of life from adolescence to being a senior. Why was that an important aspect to include?
This is the first Black women's health book to do that and it came from a place of wanting for the readers to see where you are now, and then look at the choices that you might want to make moving forward. And it's never too late to change — even small changes over time can make a difference in the quality of life.
There is so much talk in the news that we as Black people have such bad health. From HIV/AIDS, heart disease, diabetes, depression and obesity, it seems like we are losing. Why is it important to emphasize on beating the odds?
Because the reality is that many of us are experiencing health challenges now, [but] by making lifestyle changes, people are overcoming the odds. People heal themselves all the time, or positively change the course of their disease.
Take pre-hypertension and pre-diabetes. It takes 10 years for either one to develop, and so during that time we have so many choices. We wanted to provide personal stories with people who have overcome their illness and stories of people who are living successfully with a range of diseases. These women serve as role models.
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