April is dubbed the National Minority Health Month in an effort to improve the health status and lessen health care disparities in minority populations. To celebrate, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH) has given 2017 the theme; Bridging Health Equity Across Communities. It is no surprise that healthcare is imbalanced among racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups A real need for medical specialties that treat more diverse populations in order to decrease health inequities. Set good personal health care habits by keeping up to date on tests and exams.
Women’s health risks are different for various ages but all women are recommended to have a pelvic exam or pap smear, a physical exam, an eye exam, a dental exam, and regular skin checks for new or suspicious moles. Some immunizations are recommended as well such as flu vaccines, tetanus-diphtheria boosters, HPV vaccine for those are under 26, Varicella vaccine for those that have never had chickenpox, or shingles vaccine for over 60 years old, and the pneumonia vaccine for the 65 and older crew. Those are the basics. Take charge with more preventative measures to guard against diseases such as;
Diabetes. Non-Hispanic blacks are 50% more likely to die of heart disease or stroke. There is a higher prevalence of adult diabetes in other minorities as well. Ages 45+ should have regular blood tests and check blood sugar (glucose) levels. If blood sugar levels are elevated it could be an indicator of prediabetes. Earlier screening is recommended for those who have certain risk factors; overweight or a family history of diabetes. Consult a physician in the presence of symptoms such as fatigue, blurry vision, or extreme thirst.
Heart Disease and Stroke. According to the American Heart Association, 47.7 percent of non-Hispanic females have some form of cardiovascular disease. Ages 20+ should check cholesterol and blood pressure levels regularly (for blood pressure every two years, for cholesterol every four to six years). High levels of either can increase risk of heart disease and stroke. There are no outward symptoms but higher risk factors include certain age, weight, lifestyle habits, and family history. High cholesterol and blood pressure can be treated with exercise, healthy diet and in some cases medication.
Cervical Cancer. The journal Cancer reported that the mortality rate for black women is 10.1 per 100.000 while being 4.7 per 100.000 in white women. Regular pap test are recommended for ages 21-65. For those ages 30+ combine a pap test with human papillomavirus (HPV) testing.
Breast Cancer. Risk factors including genetics and a family history can raise the risk of breast cancer. It is recommended that women as young as age 20 undergo BRCA testing to check for the gene. Consider getting a mammogram especially in ages 40 and over. Mammograms can detect before symptoms show. Regular screenings in ages 40-74 can decrease mortality by 15 percent to 20 percent.
Depression. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression as men. See a doctor or mental health specialist for testing which could includes questions, possible physical, and blood tests to rule out other conditions. Depression is a high risk factor in pregnant women and new mothers.
Bone Loss. Doctors can check bone density using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA or DEXA) tests. Bone loss increases fracture risk in those ages 65 and older. Earlier screening is recommended for smokers, those who have 3+ drinks daily, a parent with broken hip or have low vitamin D levels. To improve bone density; increase calcium intake, exercise daily, and quit smoking.
For more information visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.