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Are you one of the millions of sisters out there who never has time for herself? If it's not the kids, it's your man. If it's not your man, it's the job. If it's not the job, it's your relatives. The list could go on and on. You find yourself tending to so many other people that you never have time to tend to yourself. You constantly think, I need some balance in my life, but sister-friend, it goes much deeper than that. Sure, leading a hectic life is a juggling act. But, truth be told, the dozens of balls you're trying to keep in the air are just the surface of the problem. Forget those deadlines, the dishes in the sink, the laundry piling up in the hamper. What about you? Are you at peace with yourself? Do you feel energetic and full of life? Are you in touch with your inner spirit? Are you in good health? These are the things we're talking about. The sad fact is that too many sisters never take stock of their lives, never stop long enough to truly reflect on their own well-being.
If this is you, Blessed Health is here to help. Far too many of us never give our physical or spiritual well-being the attention each deserves. What you may not realize is that one nourishes the other. When your spiritual self is cared for and nurtured, it helps to replenish, rejuvenate, and safeguard your physical self. And when it comes to health, we sisters can use all the help we can get. Just consider these alarming statistics:
- African-American women are 38 percent more likely to suffer a fatal heart attack than white women.
- One in four black women age 55 and older has diabetes, and we are more likely to develop complications from it than are our white counterparts.
- Sisters have the fastest-rising rate of increase for contracting HIV, and we are dying of AIDS at a rate ten times that of white women.
- Nearly a third of all African-American women have high blood pressure.
- Sisters are three times more likely to die of a stroke than are Caucasian women.
- Black women have the highest mortality and lowest survival rates for breast cancer. In fact, we are twice as likely to die from it as are white women.
- Black women are more likely to give birth prematurely than are Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American women. Worse still, our infant mortality rate is more than twice that of white women.
When it comes to health, sisters fare very poorly. In practically every medical category we carry the worst prognosis for conditions that are often curable or manageable. Clearly, our lives are not in balance, and we are suffering because of it. Something is out of sync, and it goes far beyond putting off that doctor's appointment or not paying attention to your body's aches and pains. Yes, these factors are certainly part of the reason why too many of us are in poor health, as are heredity and, often, insufficient medical coverage. But two other factors play just as important a role: lack of information and lack of spirituality.
Many sisters may ignore their body's creaks and twinges out of fear. None of us wants to hear bad news about our health. But the more likely reason is lack of knowledge. We don't mean that as a slight, but the fact remains that many sisters simply don't know how to read their body's messages. A little pain in the chest? Some of us are quick to chalk it up to heartburn. A recurring headache? How often have you attributed it to pressure at work? Feeling tired and run-down? Many black women would blame it on a busy schedule and leave it at that. While all of these explanations may be valid, there's a chance that a more serious health condition is the real culprit. You simply may not know how to recognize the symptoms, or are finding it more convenient to ignore them. Arming yourself with knowledge is the first step, and Blessed Health will give you the tools to do so.
The second step is resolving to do in-depth spiritual work on a daily basis in order to boost your overall health, and Blessed Health will act as your guide on that journey as well. Some may scoff at the connection between spirituality and physical well-being, but studies show a solid link between the two. In fact, as part of their ongoing health and spirituality research at the Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality & Health, under the direction of Dr. Harold G. Koenig, Duke University recently studied 4,000 people age 64 and older, black and white, and found that those who attend religious services every week tend to live longer. According to the researchers, churchgoers have a healthier immune system than those who don't attend services regularly, and women appear to benefit even more than men. In another study at the Mind/Body Medical Institute in Boston, founder Herbert Benson, a Harvard researcher, found that patients who practiced the technique of repeating a prayer many times and disregarding all other thoughts that came to mind saw significant improvements in a host of ailments, from insomnia and PMS to migraine headaches and cancer.
Although the evidence of spirituality's positive effect on health is clear, many sisters don't always use their faith as a means to better health. Yes, we are a deeply religious people who have a history of relying on inner work to see us through difficult times. But do we really use it to bless our health on a daily basis? African-American women recognize and rejoice in the power of prayer, calling upon God when a serious illness strikes. But you don't have to wait for a health emergency to occur before turning to your faith. Do spiritual work in the name of good health every day, and you will be witness to all kinds of "mini miracles." You will feel better than you have in years. Why? Because spirituality not only improves your immune system, enabling your body to better fight disease, but it also acts as a buffer against the ill effects of stress.
If you don't make time for yourself each day, to do inner work, to care for your soul, this can adversely affect your equilibrium and cause physical and biochemical changes that may result in illness. Blessed Health will show you how to keep such damage from happening. Within these pages you will learn how to achieve optimal health by combining solid medical information with increased spirituality. By the time you turn the last page you will truly understand the connection between how you feel physically and how you feel spiritually. And you will be empowered to make that relationship stronger, richer, and more life-affirming. All the tools you need are right here, and we're not just talking about learning facts and figures, although you'll find those here, too. Girlfriend, within these pages you will also discover how to find the right doctor, one who ministers to both your physical and emotional needs. You'll learn how to successfully cope with illnesses from a faith-based perspective. You will gain wisdom about preparing yourself spiritually for motherhood, menopause, and other health milestones. You'll learn important information about breast care, medications, and what to expect if you ever need surgery all coupled with soul-nourishing guidance that will enable you to shore up your health for the long run.
The Bible tells us "I would that ye prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers." It's time for sisters to heed that message. God has made us stewards, or caretakers, of our physical selves, and we need to protect that temple. We can't afford to be complacent. After all, your physical self is the only true thing you possess. Material goods may be lost, people may come in and out of your life, but your body and soul are with you always. Without your health and a spiritual foundation, what do you really have? Resolve to nurture both, and each will fortify the other. Everything you need to live a healthy, spiritually fulfilling life is right here. So take this time for yourself. Turn the page and discover enlightenment, empowerment, and total well-being. It's all within your hands. For once you experience good health, you will feel truly blessed.
Copyright © 2003 by Dr. Melody T. McCloud and Angela Ebron