black health matters
Richard W. Walker Jr., MD

Richard W. Walker Jr., MD

This morning, your head hurt something terrible.

Is it anything to worry about? Your grandfather had heart problems and died after a stroke. Your grandmother suffered from diabetes and you know there’s got to be a way to avoid their fates. Does your headache have anything to do with that? “Black Health Matters: The Vital Facts You Must Know to Protect Your Health and Those of Your Loved Ones” by Richard W. Walker Jr., MD, may calm your fears.

While growing up in New York’s Spanish Harlem, Walker noticed how much diseases like heart disease, diabetes and kidney failure affected the people in his neighborhood. He says it made him angry, and it spurred him to study medicine as a profession.

It still dismays him that “poor health among our Black population” is almost epidemic, but there is a solution. Walker says that if you take an “approach to wellness” and take steps to remain healthier, you could lower your chances of developing the more common but most serious diseases that plague a higher number of Black Americans.

First of all, he says, be aware of your “gut-microbiome-brain” connection and know what foods are best for you. Know what not to eat, too, and how probiotics can help your GMB. Then – especially if you could stand to lose a few pounds – understand obesity, why it matters and how you became overweight. Did you know culture has something to do with it? Yes, and though he only briefly touches on “food deserts,” Walker addresses these issues.

He says that Black adults are 40% more apt to have high blood pressure than their white neighbors. Hypertension is a killer; knowing more about it – like how to read a BP monitor and how smoking and salt intake figure in – will help you keep it under control.

Know the general symptoms of diabetes and what to do about them. Learn how kidney disease may start with another disease altogether. Read up on cancer, aging, sickle cell disease and how dental care really matters. Finally, memorize the signs of a stroke or heart attack; your life may depend upon it.

Your regular physician is all tied up and it’s hard to get in to see them. That doesn’t make you feel any better, but with its clear cut, easy-to-understand chapters on a variety of illnesses both major and minor, “Black Health Matters” might.

And yet, there’s one important thing to remember, once you get this book: It shouldn’t take the place of a physician with your medical chart in hand. That’s a reminder that Walker offers, but caution and prudence don’t seem to be stressed here quite enough. Then again, readers willwant to bear in mind that this book is about proactive and preventative wellness, not fixing what’s already broke.

The best use of this book, perhaps, is in the basics it offers: overviews, learning to read charts, understanding numbers and making easy changes that can improve your health. That’s all in here, it’s doable and it could make this book a patient-empowering tool for understanding major health issues, recognizing them and keeping ahead.

“Black Health Matters: The Vital Facts You Must Know to Protect Your Health and Those of Your Loved Ones” by Richard W. Walker Jr., MD. 321 pages. Square One Publishers. $16.95.