A commitment to self-preservation.

Author:Graves, Earl G., Jr.
Position:Executive Memo - Essay

A year ago, I attended the funeral of a close friend. The 44-year-old former college athlete appeared to be the picture of health. But it took just four short, painful months from the day he received a diagnosis of inoperable cancer to witness a brilliant life snuffed out in its prime. If the disease had been detected sooner, he would likely still be among the living. But his fate was unfortunately sealed because he'd refused to get a single medical exam in more than 15 years.

There are countless cases of black professionals in their 30s and 40s who have died young, many succumbing to illnesses normally afflicting people twice their age. Clues to this dire situation can be found in the abysmal statistics on the status of black health. For instance, African Americans continue to be one of the leading groups in the nation suffering from obesity: two in three men, four in five women, and one in five children are overweight, reports State Farm's 50millionpounds.com Website. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the death rate from cancer is 25% greater for African Americans than for their white counterparts. Blacks are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than whites. All of these lead to a life expectancy that runs five years shorter than whites regardless of whether we live in urban areas or upscale bedroom communities. Many African Americans seem to be in a state of denial when it comes to visiting the doctor or looking in the mirror and coming to terms with what is actually there.

However, the medical community overwhelmingly states that many diseases can be prevented through proper nutrition, a regular exercise regimen, and healthy lifestyle choices. We can no longer assume healthcare and disease prevention should be someone else's focus--not with the staggering number of deaths in our community. Each of us must make an individual commitment to self-preservation--adopting a healthy lifestyle today to ensure future longevity, vitality, and productivity. I know firsthand how challenging it can be to meet such objectives. I was once a college athlete who didn't give rigorous and regular...

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