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Stroke A Concern for All Americans, Especially Blacks

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Online health and wellness tools can help identify risks and improve health.

By Corliss Hill, national director, UnitedHealthcare’s Generations of Wellness®

Families are a powerful force and serve as the bedrock of the African-American community. From multigenerational households to family reunions and Sunday dinners, strength comes from the appreciation and celebration of familial bonds.

However, being part of a family also means we inherit certain health risks, including stroke.

Stroke is our nation’s No. 3 killer, behind heart disease and cancer, according to the American Stroke Association. About 795,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year; and stroke will cost the nation more than $73 billion this year in health care and other related costs such as loss of productivity.

African Americans have almost twice the risk of first-ever stroke compared to non- Hispanic whites. That’s because African Americans have higher risks of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, according to the American Stroke Association. Plus, one’s risk of stroke is greater if a parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke.

However, we can decrease our risk of stroke if we take charge of our health and encourage our families to do the same. Now is the time for us to take steps toward improving our health and well-being. One way to start is to create a “Family Health History Tree.” Available online at www.uhcgenerationstree.com, the Family Health History Tree walks users through simple steps to create a family health history.

The tool then draws up a detailed maternal and fraternal family tree, creating a visual record that can be printed or e-mailed to share with family as well as a doctor to learn how to reduce health risks such as stroke.

As an incentive to use the Family Health History Tree, people who register and complete the online tree and e-mail it to at least five family members by the end of the year will be entered into a sweepstakes with AfricanAncestry.com. The winner will receive a free DNA testing kit to trace their genealogy*.

There are other valuable online resources and tools that help educate and empower African Americans about health and wellness. The following resources are available at UnitedHealthcare’s Generations of Wellness website, www.uhcgenerations.com:

• Ask the Doctor answers frequently asked questions about health issues that affect African Americans across generations.

• Health Tip Flyers share information about conditions that disproportionately affect African Americans such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

• Online Wellness Center offers exercise regimens and healthy alternatives on family-favorite recipes.

• Quizzes and Self Assessments test knowledge of health and wellness and review risk factors for chronic illnesses.

• Community Resources lists local groups and organizations that work to improve African Americans’ health.

• African-American Physician Directory is an online nationwide listing, in collaboration with the National Medical Association, to find health care providers who understand African Americans’ unique health concerns.

Everyone inherits certain health risks; however, we can decrease our risks of many conditions – including stroke – and even overcome them by adopting healthy habits and staying current on important checkups and tests. The key to good health is prevention and education, and early diagnosis, so that a small problem today doesn’t become a chronic or disabling condition – or a matter of life and death – later.

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