Winner of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Health Title
It's no secret that African-Americans top the list of groups afflicted by hypertension, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, renal failure, and cancer. What the statistics do not show is the pain, misery, and despair that these conditions create, not only for the individual, but also for family and friends. As an African-American doctor, Dr. Richard Walker has studied these conditions among his patients for many years. Now, for the first time, Dr. Walker believes that research has found a commonsense way to prevent, reduce, and possibly eliminate these killers, turning the tide of African-American health.
Dr. Walker begins by looking at the black community's lifestyle, which has radically changed over the centuries, shifting people from hours spent under a blazing sun to a life of minimum sunlight exposure. From there, it is clear that the missing puzzle piece of African-American health is a chronic lack of Vitamin D3. Most important, Dr. Walker explains how this crucial factor can be added to a daily routine along with components such as nutritional supplements, diet, and exercise. He then focuses on each major illness affecting the black community and explores what it is, what its symptoms are, and how the reader can avoid or treat the problem.
A concise yet critical guide, African-American Healthy offers an important first step towards achieving a healthier, longer life for millions of people.
Richard W. Walker, Jr., MD, MBA received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and completed his residency at the University of Michigan. He earned his MBA from the Jack Welch Management Institute. He has served on the faculty of the University of Texas Medical Center, and is the founder and CEO of Walker Health Care Holdings and TVP-Care, Houston-based national healthcare companies. In addition to being a published writer, Dr. Walker is a highly sought-after speaker.
Vitamin D deficiency is now known to be a major cause of health problems for many people, particularly those with a high melanin concentration. What has not been widely known until recently is just how serious the health problems are: high blood pressure and cancer have a Vitamin D3 connection. This is of particular importance for African Americans, who statistically are at greater risk of "type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, stroke, and cancer" (kidney disease alone is 320% higher for black Americans than white Americans). Dr. Walker's book is important for not only examining and explaining the problems, but for providing clear, concrete steps for prevention. Walker, who grew up in the projects in Spanish Harlem, suffered a variety of illnesses, and received his medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, writes in a very approachable way: whether explaining complex scientific, physiological, and genetic processes, or massive public health issues, Walker is easy to understand and affable. Chapters cover health issues from obesity to diabetes, explaining how issues impact African Americans, and ends with a guide to dietary supplements. Walker's effort will undoubtedly prove valuable.
1. American Health in Black and White
2. Understanding and Slowing the Aging Process
3. Vitamin D3
7. Type 2 Diabetes
8. Kidney Disease
10. A Guide to Dietary Supplements
About the Author
I grew up in Spanish Harlem, on 115th Street between Lexington and Park Avenue, in the Johnson Housing Projects of New York City. Back then, health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and cancer were accepted by my community as part of the natural aging process. No one even bothered to wonder why so many black Americans were dying of these particular afflictions. Prior to his death, my own father suffered from type 2 diabetes and hypertension, which led to kidney disease, dementia, and multiple strokes. Both my maternal grandfather and grandmother also died of many of these same illnesses. But my family story was not unique. It was the same as so many other stories in the neighborhood. Black Americans were quietly being killed by their diseases and nobody was wondering why. These diseases affected not only the individual but also the family unit. A family member’s illness often resulted in a loss of work hours, reduced mental alertness (resulting in fewer promotions and pay increases), and less quality time spent with the family—not to mention the greatly increased healthcare costs that prevented families from saving or investing their hard-earned money. It appeared as though diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, kidney failure, strokes, heart attacks, and cancer were an unavoidable part of the black experience. It was simply the way things were. Unfortunately, it’s the way things still are.
The idea for this book sprang from a conversation I had with my friend Rob Martin. Rob is a pioneer of health talk radio and continues to work on the air nationwide. While discussing our family histories, we found that the health differences between Rob’s Irish lineage and my own African-American one were stark. The diseases that ran through my family tree did not appear on the branches of Rob’s nearly as often. This discrepancy aroused our curiosity immediately, so we compared other families we knew, both black and white, only to confirm the distinction further. Time and again, blacks seemed to get the short end of the stick when it came to general health. Most striking were the differences in longevity and cause of death. While the majority of my white friends’ relatives tended to die as a result of the body’s natural deterioration (what we call dying of “old age”), my black friends’ family reports were littered with illnesses and rarely went beyond the basic knowledge that many of their relatives had acquired health conditions early in their lives and had died of complications from those conditions. Of course, these findings were all anecdotal, but as an African American and a doctor, my interest was piqued. Moreover, it seemed that African Americans had long ago accepted these health conditions without question, buying into the idea of a lifetime of disease management, instead of the possibility of disease prevention and reversal. Basically, the black community had come to believe that they couldn’t ever expect to be as healthy as other Americans, that they could only be “African-American healthy.”
Having read an enormous amount of literature over the years about the importance of vitamin D3 in disease prevention, Rob mentioned that he had also come across studies that suggested a severe lack of this vitamin in the African-American population. We immediately wondered if this deficiency was in any way connected to the apparent tendency of African Americans towards certain illnesses. With such a depressing health disparity between blacks and whites staring me in the face, I had to wonder: Were insufficient vitamin D3 levels making African Americans more susceptible to disease than the majority of the country? When I discovered that the answer was yes, I knew I had to do something about it.
The purpose of this book is to eradicate, if possible, the predominance of disease in the black population for good. Over the course of the following chapters, you will discover the ways in which small lifestyle changes—such as adjusting your eating habits, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking vitamin D3 and other proven supplements—can powerfully complement established medications and even prevent disease from occurring in the first place. The information found in this book aims to give you a reason to hope, to provide you with another option other than resigned acceptance of fate, which only perpetuates this silent epidemic. Ultimately, my goal is to equip African Americans—and everyone else, for that matter—with the best possible tools for illness prevention and wellness maintenance, so that we may look forward to a better future and redefine what it means to be “African-American healthy.”