For many Caribbean American women, taking proper care of themselves is something that comes secondary in their lives, something they may address only after they are done taking care of their children and families. While this selflessness generally tends to reflect positive character traits (such as selflessness, compassion, and generosity), it also comes at the very real risk of harming their health, as well.
Oftentimes, many serious health issues can remain undetected for a considerable amount of time due to their asymptomatic nature, leading to lasting and severe repercussions. Ultimately, to minimize this risk and improve the overall outcome, early detection is key. The sooner a disease or illness is detected, the sooner treatment can begin. For Caribbean women, these four health issues are both quite common and quite serious — and, in turn, require prompt treatment for the best possible prognosis.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that can lead to a host of complications, including lasting nerve damage, harm to the blood vessels, rashes and ulcers, permanent vision loss, dementia, and poor wound healing (leading to possible amputation). The major cause of type 2 diabetes can be traced back to insulin resistance, and a combination of genetics, hormonal imbalances, and lifestyle choices can increase a person’s chances of developing it.
Caribbean women are especially vulnerable to developing type 2 diabetes, with research suggesting they are greater than 1.5 times more likely to develop it than Caribbean men. This is in stark contrast to the general population in the United States, whereas men are typically more prone to developing this disease. Nevertheless, prevention of this disease can include a healthier lifestyle, such as eating more plant-based foods and regular physical activity.
Another fairly common disease that affects Caribbean women more often than the general population is hypertension. Defined as having high blood pressure, hypertension can lead to a host of health concerns in women, such as transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a stroke, cardiovascular disease (the leading cause of death in women) and a heart attack, kidney disease, vision loss, and dementia.
Common risk factors for hypertension can include unhealthy lifestyle choices (such as a diet high in fatty meats and sodium, a lack of exercise, and smoking), obesity, and stress. Caribbean women are especially vulnerable to developing hypertension during pregnancy, particularly during their first pregnancy. Engaging in health-promoting behaviors, such as following a balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise, can help minimize this risk.
Unfortunately, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) tend to impact Caribbean American women at a much higher rate than the general population. Researchers suspect that this prevalence is not necessarily due to the amount of activity between intimate partners, but rather, because of a lack of access to proper care and economic insecurity. In many cases, they are unable to find a healthcare provider to discuss their concerns and symptoms, and the cost of prophylaxis can be high.
In addition, many people mistakenly believe that if they do not have any symptoms of an STI, then they also do not have an active infection. This could not be further from the truth, and in fact, many infections (such as chlamydia and gonorrhea) can remain entirely asymptomatic in women. However, a simple Aptima® Multitest swab test can return results with just one sample, empowering Caribbean American women to get the treatment they deserve.
Cancer is, unfortunately, a fairly common and tragic disease that impacts millions of Americans every year. Recent statistics indicate that up to 1.8 million people in the United States will receive a cancer diagnosis this year, and of those people, over 600,000 of them will pass away due to their illness. However, while both white and black Americans are diagnosed at a similar rate, the mortality rate for black Americans is markedly higher.
Take, for instance, breast cancer. According to recent data, black American women have a 40% higher mortality rate despite having a lower diagnosis rate, and Caribbean women have a nearly 60% higher mortality rate than U.S. women. The socioeconomic disparity between both groups is largely to blame for this discrepancy, researchers believe, further highlighting the importance of routine screenings for early detection and being one’s own advocate in receiving care.
Maintaining wellness as a woman can be a unique challenge, especially when her attention can be diverted to other things that may otherwise distract her from prioritizing her health. This is further compounded for Caribbean American women, and the importance of routine medical appointments and access to quality care cannot be overstated. However, by taking the time to remain educated about these risks — and staying proactive in prevention — a healthy, long, and happy life can be possible.