Healthy Women Image

Pamela M. Peeke, MD, MPH

Pew Foundation Scholar in Nutrition and Metabolism
Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine
University of Maryland
Baltimore, MD

Full Bio
smiling black woman

Improve Your Health: 3 Tips for Women of Color

Reduce disease risk and feel your best

Nutrition & Movement

I want to talk about the things you can do to improve and protect your health and take the focus off the healthcare system, for just a minute. Surely, there must be things we can do on our own to reduce the many health-related gaps between women of color and white women.

Did you know that approximately 53% of non-Hispanic Black women and 51% of Mexican-American women 40 to 59 years of age are obese compared with about 39 percent of white women of the same age? These higher rates of obesity contribute to the fact that blacks are more likely to be diagnosed with and die from coronary heart disease (clogged arteries) than whites, that Hispanic women develop cardiovascular disease an average of 10 years earlier than white women and that the prevalence of coronary heart disease among blacks is rising even as it is falling among whites.

So let's focus on your weight, physical activity and diet as three steps you can take to reduce your personal health care disparities.

For instance, a diet high in fruits and vegetables is linked with lower rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and nearly every other major chronic condition. Yet only 8 percent of African Americans report getting at least a cup a day of fruit (two servings), and just 16 percent say they get one-and-a-half cups a day of vegetables (three servings). The recommendations for how much you should get varies based on your age and gender, but should be about eight or nine cups a day total. And those veggies, of course, should be steamed or raw, not fried!

So I challenge you to see how many more servings a day of fruits and vegetables you can add to your diet and to your family's diet.

I also challenge you to increase your daily physical activity levels, another area of disparity. While half of all white women claim to be physically active on a regular basis, that figure drops to 36 percent of black and 42 percent of Hispanic women.

To help you get started, I did a quick search to see what types of programs have been shown to work well for women of color.

Ladies, it's time to get out there and move!

You might be interested in