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Naturi Naughton On Why Empowering Women And Girls Is Key To Building Healthy Communities

Body Piercing Is A Hep C Risk

Coping With Alzheimer’s

One Family’s Story

Sex Robots The New Love Machines

Can Eating Sweets Cause Diabetes?

Read the real-life stories of people living with hepatitis C



this month on REALHEALTHMAG.COM A Changed Man

Entrepreneur Russell Simmons is on a mission to enlighten all those who will listen about the health benefits of going vegan and embracing yoga.



My Life For Real

Charles Mattocks, a.k.a. “The Poor Chef,” is bringing attention to the difficulties faced by diabetes sufferers each day they live with this chronic disease.

B’klyn Homegirls Burn Fat Join the Brooklynette dancers online for a crazy-cool, fun and fastpaced workout you do right in the comfort of your own home.

Digital Real Health

Read Real Health magazine online exactly as it appears in print. Go to digital to view the current issue and the entire Smart + Strong digital library.

editor’s letter


personal power

When that little warning voice whispers to you, make sure you listen to your instincts.

Health Basics A—Z

Want to lose weight, exercise smart, eat right, find good health care, sleep better or just get healthy? For tips, click on “Health Basics A–Z” on the home page.


10 8


HIV behind bars; how couples who have different HIV statuses can negotiate sex; hep C and body piercings; a look at your waste; oral health and the heart



Is it possible that realistic sex robots may soon replace human beings as lovers?; Ask Doctor Dee: Getting a partner to use condoms


Actress Naturi Naughton makes it her business to talk to women and girls about empowerment.


Although findings don’t show sugar causes diabetes, it’s clear overdoing sweets isn’t good.


present but not here Mental health activist Terrie Williams’s mom is just one of 3.2 million women with Alzheimer’s.


hair breakage basics If long, strong strands are one of your goals in life, don’t flip past this article.


Common reasons why your workouts may not work and how to fix these issues; if you’re bored with your exercise regimen, why not try pole-dancing?

not too sweet



If you feel bad when you say no, here’s why you shouldn’t.

Real Health Question of the Month

What’s the most difficult dating issue facing today’s singles? I think finding a good person to date is still the biggest obstacle confronting singles. People simply don’t look for solid qualities in others that are necessary to build a strong love relationship. 

—Jeff Carroll, the Hip-Hop Dating Coach

reach out & click!

At, you can read more articles; access exclusive, online-only special reports; meet other health-minded black singles; and subscribe ($9.97 for four quarterly issues; you can also call 800.973.2376). Plus, sign up for the Real Health email newsletter to get the latest black health news!



Basic Instinct


ometimes all that separates us from certain disaster are the small but important decisions we make: to turn right instead of left, left instead of right, or sometimes just walk straight ahead. At the age of 20, when I lived in Brooklyn, I had an appointment with my gynecologist. My boyfriend at the time accompanied me to the doctor’s office that was located on a residential street in the East Flatbush area. The office was in a private house with a separate entrance for patients. On this warm spring day, the fact that my boyfriend had come with me was unusual; I usually went solo to all my medical appointments. As it turned out, I was very happy he’d decided to come with me. When we arrived at the office, we rang the bell to be let in. As we stood there waiting to hear the buzzer, a man yanked open the door. Startled, my boyfriend and I looked at each other. At first, we thought the man was leaving the office, but he motioned us inside and slammed the door shut behind us. After our eyes adjusted to the sudden change in lighting, we slowly took a step forward and then froze. Inside the waiting room, we saw people seated on the floor, bound and gagged, in various stages of undress. As my boyfriend prepared to swing around, the man who opened the door



Jennifer Morton DEPUTY EDITOR

Trenton Straube COPY EDITOR




Michael Halliday LEGACY ADVISOR

Megan Strub


Sean Strub


Lee SaintMartin, MS, IIPA, CN, ND, naturopath; Goulda Downer, PhD, RD, CNS, and Nutrition Services, Inc.; Yuan Wan, licensed acupuncturist and doctor of traditional Chinese medicine; Dorothy Horton, PsyD, clinical psychologist; Lovell Harris, MD, internist; Terrie Williams, mental health advocate; Xavier Artis, campaign creator, Stay Strong: Healing Starts With Us (HSWU)


Ian Anderson


John La


Susan Mary Levey CONTROLLER


Jonathan Gaskell


pushed us both inside the room. Then he brought the hand he’d had behind his back forward. Now we could see the pistol he was clutching. He waved it in front of our faces and ordered us to sit down with the others. My boyfriend sat on an empty chair and I sat on the floor in front of him. Then the gunman told us to toss any valuables in a pile on the floor and strip. For some reason, he allowed my boyfriend to keep his watch. My mind raced in a million directions. The gunman called out toward the back of the office where the examination room was located. I guessed that the doctor and his staff, the two nurses who worked with him, had to be back there. Just then two other men rushed through the examination room doorway; their clothing was disheveled and one was buckling his belt. One of the two who came from the back scooped up everything in the pile on the floor and threw the items into a bag. As the gunman watched us, one of the other two opened the door and both ran out. Then the gunman backed out slowly into the tiny foyer. “Nobody move,” he said. Then he disappeared. Moments later, the police arrived. The next day, when I went to the police station to file a claim for the money taken from me in the robbery, I learned the nurses in the doctor’s office had been raped during the ordeal. Years later, I still wonder about what could have happened that day but for the unplanned decisions we’d made.


Jeremy Grayzel

Here’s to your health,



Kate Ferguson, Editor-in-Chief


Issue No. 41. Copyright © 2014 CDM Publishing LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in any retrieval system or transmitted, in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. If you are an individual or organization and would like to subscribe to Real Health, go to real or call 800.973.2376. Send feedback on this issue to info@ or Real Health, c/o Smart + Strong, 462 Seventh Ave., 19th Floor, New York, NY 10018. Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.





Practice self-help if you’re locked up and living with HIV. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mandates that all inmates with HIV should have access to appropriate medical care, the quality of that treatment varies in different institutions. But many inmates living with HIV can help themselves. “It’s shocking how many of these clients don’t know they can better their health by simply utilizing the little that’s available to them,” says Edwin V. Santana, a peer educator and counseling aide who works as a facilitator for Prisoners for AIDS Counseling and Education (PACE) at Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Woodbourne, New York. Santana offers the following tips that can help if you’re in prison or out: Eat right. Although the fruits and veggies served in prison dining areas usually come in a can, they still contain nutrients. “You may also want to ask the prison physician to authorize foods consistent with your diet,” Santana advises.

How do couples of different HIV status handle having sex? When Kim met Ken, they were instantly attracted to each other. The two had many things in common. But there was one major difference they had to consider: Kim was HIV negative while Ken was HIV positive. When HIV-positive and HIV-negative individuals become a couple and decide to have sex, “It’s important to discuss together what the health concerns might be for the two of you, and to be comfortable with your decision,” says Joanna Eveland, an HIV specialist at San Francisco’s Mission Neighborhood Health Center. To avoid worries about transmitting the virus, people living with HIV must take antiretrovirals (ARV). This can help to lower their viral load to undetectable levels and reduce the risk of HIV transmission. But an undetectable viral load doesn’t mean transmission can’t happen. Even when HIV is undetectable in someone’s blood, the virus can be found in other bodily fluids, such as semen. Besides recommending people take meds to lower the chance of HIV transmission, doctors suggest serodiscordant couples use condoms and get screened and treated for all sexually transmitted infections; what’s more, the HIV-positive partner should undergo regular testing to check his or her viral load.




Ask your doc questions. HIV meds may be hard to pronounce and a challenge to take as directed. But don’t just swallow pills without understanding how they work. “Ask your doctor about dosages, usage and side effects,” Santana suggests. “Even though you’re locked up, you still have the right to ask questions.” Educate yourself about the virus. Some facilities have PACE offices or other HIV/AIDS awareness programs. If not, ask a nurse about what’s available, or get contact information about community organizations you can write to from your facility’s library. Stay positive. Meditate, use writing as therapy and exercise your mind with brainteasers. Avoid “jailhouse politics and substance abuse,” Santana warns, “and if you’re hooked, get help so you can quit.” Masturbate. Not only does self-sexing relieve tension and induce gratification, says Santana, “It’s healthy, so don’t be ashamed to indulge.”


When Opposites Attract

Work out. Even if there isn’t any exercise equipment in your facility, you can still do push-ups and sit-ups in your cell or cubicle. “Go to the yard and jog a bit,” Santana says. “And speed walking is good cardio.”



What docs say about oral health and heart disease

Pushing It Invasive body art is a hep C risk. According to results from a recent Harris Poll, 49 percent of Americans have pierced ears. What’s more, 7 percent say they have a piercing elsewhere on their body and 4 percent report they have a facial piercing not on their ear. But no matter where a piercing is located, those who opt to rock this type of body art also place themselves at risk of acquiring hepatitis C, a disease caused by a virus that infects the liver. Piercings can transmit the virus if any instrument used to create this body art isn’t sterilized or disinfected, before it is used on another client. In addition, sharing body-piercing jewelry can transmit microscopic traces of infected blood that may linger on these accessories. That’s why the Association of Professional Piercers suggests you only get work done by a licensed professional. What’s more, check the business’s autoclave (a device that sterilizes body-piercing jewelry, tools and equipment). Also ask piercing pros to show you the results from a spore test that confirms the autoclave’s ability to kill HCV and other dangerous organisms. And watch the piercer set up for your session. If possible, piercers should use supplies only once, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What’s more, piercers should wash reusable instruments or devices before thoroughly sterilizing them in properly maintained machines. Finally, piercers should wash and glove their hands before beginning a session, and experts suggest they not use an ear gun to do the job.

Scientists haven’t proved that oral problems cause diseases elsewhere in the body, but researchers believe there’s a possible connection between the two. After scientists evaluated patients with periodontitis, a serious gum infection, they learned that chewing food and brushing teeth released bacteria into patients’ bloodstreams—the same bacteria in arterial plaque that can lead to heart attacks. But a statement from the American Heart Association reports there’s no conclusive evidence that preventing or treating gum disease can reduce plaque buildup in coronary arteries that can contribute to a heart attack or stroke. Says Ann F. Bolger, MD, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, “People with periodontitis often have risk factors that not only put their mouth at risk, but their heart and blood vessels too. But whether one causes the other has not actually been shown.” Doctors suggest that for the sake of our overall health, signs of periodontal disease— such as red, swollen, tender gums, or gums that pull away from your teeth or bleed when you brush—require immediate treatment. And always tell your dentist if you have heart problems.


Talking S--t


Don’t poo-poo symptoms of illness in your stool. Waste can be of seven types, according to the Bristol Royal Infirmary in the United Kingdom, creator of the Bristol Stool Chart. Also known as the Meyers Scale, the chart categorizes poop as such: 1) separate, hardto-pass, nut-like waste; 2) lumpy, sausage-shaped stools; 3) sausage-shaped poop with cracked surfaces; 4) smooth, soft, sausage-shaped waste; 5) easy-to-pass blobs; 6) mushy stools; and 7) watery poop. Types 4 and 5 are what you want to see in your toilet bowl. But size, shape, consistency and color are also

key. Black and tarry-looking or bright red stool may indicate internal bleeding of some kind. Very pale brown, gray or white stool may signal serious liver or pancreas problems. Yellow poop may mean gallbladder problems; giardiasis, an intestinal infection; or Gilbert’s syndrome, a genetic condition that doesn’t require medical treatment. Very smelly stool? This may mean celiac or Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, pancreatitis, or that your body isn’t properly absorbing nutrients in food.



SEX EX Ask Doctor Dee Dorothy Horton, PsyD, answers your questions.

Strange Bedfellows

The sex machines are here and ready when you are. A recent report by the Pew Research Center looks at how continuing improvements to artificial intelligence and robotics will affect various areas of society, including sexual relationships. Says the report, “robotic sex partners will become commonplace” by 2025. Actually, the future is now. A visit online to a number of different sites can introduce you to life-size sex dolls made of silicone. Models come with soft, working genitals, some with their bodies already primed and in position to do the deed. In fact, the

5 billion

THE ESTIMATED NUMBER OF CONDOMS SOLD EACH YEAR WORLDWIDE. Source: Ansell Limited, makers of Lifestyles Condoms



sex doll industry is thriving in Japan, according to newspaper accounts. Scientists there are on a mission to create the most lifelike sex dolls with increasingly real-feeling skin and authentic-looking eyes. In addition, there are also robotic devices that can be used to perform sexual acts on men and bring their users to orgasm. One, the Autoblow 2, is available online and made possible by money raised through crowdfunding. The second, the SW-3701 sperm extractor, was created by Chinese researchers and is used in some hospitals there to collect semen from donors. The devices are different, but both get the job done by providing stimulation that prompts an orgasm. Scientists who study this topic say there is plenty more research being done in the field, including efforts to create robots that can interact and even converse with people. David Levy, the author of a book on the subject, Love and Sex with Robots, believes that for millions of people who have trouble establishing sexual relationships with other human beings for one reason or another, robots may offer the perfect erotic companionship.

Most important, when you are ready to talk to your partner about condoms, don’t bring up the subject “in the heat of the moment.” A better way is to choose an appropriate time in a relaxed atmosphere so you can discuss the issue in a comfortable and supportive setting. Tell your partner what your expectations, needs and concerns are regarding unprotected sex. Let your partner know that you want to have sex, but not without a condom. Pitch the idea that, properly used, condoms work to protect both of you from many sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy. Suggest shopping for condoms together, or look up different types of prophylactics online to make planning for safe sex more like a fun adventure. After you or your partner purchases condoms, keep them handy at all times. If your partner is reluctant to use a condom, remind him or her that having unsafe sex is unhealthy for both of you. Make it clear that you aren’t willing to risk your health or theirs and this is a way to protect each other. Should these tactics fail, be prepared to walk away. A partner who refuses to use a condom is not the right sex partner because he or she doesn’t have your best interests at heart.


What are some effective ways to negotiate condom use with your sexual partner?


HANG LOOSE Tired of the same ol’, same ol’? Try this workout. At one time many people thought that swinging around steel poles onstage was only for strippers. Today, women and men use pole dancing as just another way to get fit. There is even an organization, the International Pole Dance Association, dedicated to getting pole dancing recognized as a legitimate sport. Indeed, pole dancing is a popular class in established gyms that pride themselves on offering the latest fitness programs. Pole dancing movements work the upper body and core and are an effective method of strength training. In addition, the movements include stretching and dancing, both great ways to develop flexibility, improve posture and tone the body. “It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to exercise and healthy eating,” says Nancy L. Naternicola, a physical education expert and author of the book Fitness: Steps to Success. “This is the time to try something new.” But as with any new exercise, pole dancing comes with associated risk of injury. Says Naternicola, “Be realistic and start with small, short-term goals.”

Unchain yourself from repeating workout failures.

Breaking Away


Free yourself from bad habits for better workout results. According to Joey Thurman, a Chicago-based certified personal trainer and fitness expert who created The Lifestyle Renovation website, there are many reasons why, despite butt-busting workouts, we may fail to achieve our fitness and exercise goals. Maybe it’s because you perform the same old, boring workout each week, or you don’t modify your diet by making healthier food choices. For example, it’s easy to justify overeating if you’re committed to a fitness plan. “It gets dangerous when you start eating poorly simply because you’re working out,” says Thurman. Of course, these are just a few bad habits that can make it harder to attain the results we want from a consistent exercise program. Thurman also advises against setting unrealistic expectations, perceiving exercise as work and going overboard on training. The last example is especially counterproductive because you can’t make gains if you don’t allow your body enough time to rest and recover.

$75 billion







PICTURE PERFECT Like many young black girls, actress Naturi Naughton took years to become empowered enough to look in the mirror and fully appreciate what she saw reected there.

By Kate Ferguson



“When I was a teenager, I was in a

girl group called 3LW,” she says. “At that time, I was dealing with feeling like my skin color wasn’t beautiful because, in that music industry environment, only a certain look was popular.” Naughton says it took her years to really embrace the beautiful chocolate color of her skin and her features. “I’ve got full lips, and have been told my look is great,” she says. “But it wasn’t



until I was in my 20s that I could really appreciate and feel good about myself.” Indeed, a slew of studies have focused on how skin color affects the self-esteem of African Americans and other people of color who live in the United States. The skin color bias Naughton internalized that’s present in the African-American community is called colorism. The term was coined by Alice Walker, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize–winning book The Color Purple. Walker defined colorism in an essay titled “If the Present Looks Like the Past, What Does the Future Look Like?” that appears in her book In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose. In the essay, Walker discusses the division between light-skinned and dark-skinned black women, saying that unless the issue is addressed, “we cannot, as a people, progress.” Naughton believes color, looks and features are still issues we’re struggling with in our community. “That’s just something I think we’re all going to have to pray about because it doesn’t just go away overnight,” she says. But Naughton also believes that, today, the beauty of black women of all hues is being acknowledged, accepted and appreciated in the public consciousness. To make her point, Naughton points to organizations such as Black Girls Rock spreading its message of self-love, Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, celebrated for her dark beauty and style, and the acknowledgement given to Kerry Washington, star of the hit TV show Scandal, as a modern beauty and fashion icon.

“Whitney Houston was my inspiration because I’m from East Orange, New Jersey, and so was she,” Naughton says. “I grew up watching this wonderful, beautiful black woman achieve success and greatness, and it really clicked in my head that if she could be beautiful and accepted, maybe I could too. I think things are continuing to move toward a better, more confident place, so I feel encouraged.” But the continuing issue of colorism remains worrisome, say black mental health experts. According to “On


“There’s constant rejection in this business,” says Naturi Naughton, the petite star who plays Tasha St. Patrick on the hit STARZ cable TV series Power. ”There’s not enough people telling you that you have great qualities. It can be disheartening, and it can be hard. I still go through that. I’m in a very hard business.” Although Naughton is as unlike Tasha as day is to night, the actress relates to her character in certain ways. “Tasha is the character who loves to wear the sexy, tight dresses and who’s always concerned about her body image and being the sexy wife for her husband,” Naughton says. “I connect with that

because I’m still negotiating feeling confident about my shape.” As Naughton speaks, the afternoon sunlight filters through the windows of her temporary home, an apartment on one of the upper floors of a modern high-rise in Brooklyn, New York. The building sits a few blocks away from the stalwart presence of the Manhattan Bridge, which connects the two boroughs. The view from her windows is magnificent, and you can see for miles in any direction. But the panorama doesn’t distract Naughton as she recalls her adolescent years.

Dark Girls,” a recent paper published by the Association of Black Psychologists, when racist stereotypes and attitudes are adopted as truth and believed by those on the receiving end of the lies, “a heavy price is paid by all members of the black community.” Despite the damage caused by these insidious and lingering lies, Naughton says she feels a lot more optimistic as popular culture continues to redefine society’s standards of beauty in a more inclusive way. But in Hollywood, she says, change is slower in coming. “I deal with it every day because I’m on the audition scene and constantly going for roles and trying to knock down doors and getting people to see me as someone they should hire,” she says. “Even though the industry is opening up more, I think Hollywood is still challenging.” Nevertheless, Naughton plucked a few plum roles that supported her mission to nurture self-esteem. When she was cast as hip-hop star Lil’ Kim in the movie Notorious, Naughton was thrilled. “What a confident, sexual being!” she says. “I’m nothing like that. I’m still kind of demure and insecure and shy and worried about if I’m good enough. But I think the arts is a way to bust out and open up a part of yourself that doesn’t exist in your everyday life. Playing a character like Lil’ Kim helped me feel healthier about myself.” Naughton says that when she played Kim, she worked out more and felt good about her body. Now, playing the character of Tasha has helped her explore and appreciate another side of herself. “Doing this role has made me feel a little bit more like a woman. Sometimes I think it takes a great character to bring out the best in you. So even though I’m nothing like these characters, playing these roles does help me to feel a little bit more free.” But in another role that’s even more personal to Naughton, she’s an activist who advocates for the empowerment of women and girls dealing with self-worth issues, beauty, sex and getting tested for sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV. These issues, she believes, are all directly and indirectly related. “I go to a lot of young women’s organizations and talk to them about making sure they know that they are worthy of

respect and that they don’t have to rush into sex,” she says. “ I think women equate being sexually active with their worth and beauty. But I tell them it’s OK to be smart, have values and not have sex just to be popular and to fit in.” For many women and girls worldwide, these goals are also directly related to the issue of gender equality that’s being championed by the global health community. Says pediatrician Nafsiah Mboi, MD, MPH, chair of the Board of the Global Fund and minister of health for Indonesia, “In many societies, women and young girls do not enjoy the same access to health as men, let alone the same rights or opportunities. But a society that does not cure and treat its women and young girls with love and care and with equality will never be a healthy society.”

HERSTORY LIFE FOR THE LADIES AIN’T BEEN NO CRYSTAL STAIR. Findings from a recent World Bank Group report show that although women’s and girls’ lives have improved, we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality worldwide. Below are some sobering facts researchers found: ■

Gender-based violence affects women everywhere. Women suffer from physical or sexual violence at the hands of their boyfriends, husbands or partners, making their homes the place they’re least likely to be safe. According to findings by the World Health Organization, the following statistics reflect the share of physical and intimate partner violence suffered by women worldwide: South Asia, 43 percent; sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent; Latin America and the Caribbean, 33 percent; East Asia and the Pacific, 30 percent; Europe and Central Asia, 29 percent; Australia and New Zealand, 28 percent; North America, 21 percent.

Many girls only have limited control over their sexual and reproductive rights. If present trends continue, 142 million girls under age 18 will become wives, and 1 in 5 girls will become pregnant before their 18th birthday. This can negatively affect a country’s economy and boost the death rates of girls ages 15 to 19.

Fewer women than men own property and housing. This difference may be wide in some areas of the world. In addition, in some countries women may only acquire land through male relatives, another driver of gender inequality.

In most areas of the world, women are underrepresented in politics and positions of power. Although rates differ by region and country, globally, less than 22 percent of parliament members are women and fewer than 5 percent of mayors are women.

Last spring, the Global Fund’s Gender

Equality Strategy Action Plan rolled out an initiative to address gender inequalities and strengthen efforts to protect women’s and girls’ rights to health care. One focus of the plan targets HIV/AIDS and addresses the gender inequalities that drive this disease. This is vital because HIV is the leading cause of death worldwide for women ages 15 to 44. In general, a lot of media images and peer pressure directed at women and girls wreak havoc on their self-esteem and put their sexual health at risk. This is why Naughton is so committed to working with campaigns that reach out to women and girls in college and high schools; they’re among the population groups at increased risk of HIV. “I’m also someone who advocates for checking your status with OraQuick, the athome HIV test,” she says. To achieve health and wellness requires self-love and self-appreciation, Naughton adds. “I want for all the young girls out there to recognize how beautiful we all are—no matter what shade of color your skin is, no matter how dark or light, how tall or short you are. Just start to say to yourself as you look in the mirror each morning, ‘I am beautiful,’ and really live by that. That’s what I do.” ■





Many people think eating sugary foods can cause diabetes. Is there any truth to this popular notion? By Gerrie E. Summers



teaspoon of sugar from the bowl on the kitchen table and let the crystals melt inside her mouth. I thought this was a strange habit and, fortunately, not one

Happily, some sugar is good for you. “In fact, you need sugar, particularly carbohydrates, to fuel your body, especially the brain,” Khan explains. There are many sugars, such as glucose, fructose and sucrose (table sugar). These are simple sugars, or carbohydrates. But there are also more complex sugars, such as polysaccharides, found in pasta or bread, “and they don’t all work the same in our body,” Khan says. Perhaps, there’s a real possibility that the eating-sweets-causes-diabetes myth originated because, in the past, doctors advised diabetics and those showing sugar in their urine to cut down or stop eating sweet foods. Doctors correctly believed sugar would raise blood glucose levels too high, but this would happen only if someone was insulin resistant, or their body was not producing enough of the hormone. “Insulin is secreted when you eat,” Khan says. “This is how the body regulates the level of blood sugars.” But simply eating sweets or sugar doesn’t

cause either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and unknown factors that trigger the onset of the disease. In type 1 diabetes, there are few or no insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas because the body destroys them. Type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors. For example, being overweight or obese and following a diet that’s high in calories (from any food sources, not only sweet stuff ) can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, individuals may




As a child I’d watch my mother scoop a

I inherited. But several years later my mom developed type 2 diabetes and was banned from eating table sugar, and I nearly panicked. As an adolescent, the doctor hospitalized me for diabetes testing and told my mother she should modify my diet. I could only drink sugar-free sodas and was forced to forsake some of my favorite sweet treats—namely, chocolate cake and candy. For years, like many people, I believed that if I ate too much sugar or drank too much soda, I’d get diabetes. Certainly, if you have diabetes, or want to avoid this chronic disease, you should cut sugar from your diet, right? Well, not exactly. Contrary to popular belief, sugar does not cause diabetes. So why is there so much confusion? “Too much sugar, especially added sugars that we eat and drink from premade or processed foods, can lead to weight gain,” says Sobia Khan, MSc, RD, author of 150 Best Indian, Asian, Caribbean and More Diabetes Recipes. “Weight gain can indirectly lead to type 2 diabetes, since you are more at risk of the disease when you carry extra fat around your abdomen or organs.” This fatty baggage can lead the body to become resistant to insulin, Khan explains, a hormone produced by the pancreas. When this happens, it means the insulin produced isn’t able to send a message to the body’s cells to take in glucose, or sugar, from the blood so cells can use it for energy. In addition, if insulin function is impaired, the hormone can’t signal the liver to store glucose if the body has enough to meet its energy needs.

have enough pancreatic beta cells, but either the cells don’t produce enough insulin or the person is insulin resistant and unable to use the hormone to maintain proper cell functions. Sometimes people are diagnosed with pre-diabetes. In pre-diabetes, blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for someone to be considered diabetic. If you have pre-diabetes, it’s possible to delay or prevent getting diabetes by making certain lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier food. “That is why when managing one’s diet for diabetes, it doesn’t matter if you have type 1 or type 2,” Khan says. To properly manage sugar in a diabetes-

prevention diet, it’s key to understand that while sugar isn’t considered to be the cause of diabetes, sweets are indirectly linked to developing the disease, or they can be a contributing factor. According to study findings published in 2013, increased sugar in a population’s food supply was found to be closely related to higher diabetes rates. What’s more, the study also suggested that the longer the period of time a population group indulged their taste for sweets, independent of other foods eaten, calories consumed, physical activity levels or obesity rates, the more diabetes occurred in this population. As a result of the findings, researchers suggested that sugar affects the liver and pancreas differently than other types of foods. The scientists also stressed that when sugar intake dipped, so did diabetes rates. But interestingly, other study findings showed individuals who consumed a lot of sugar weren’t at risk of diabetes. And, once again, the drop wasn’t related to what else they ate, or how active or obese they were. So what about sugary drinks? “The link that’s likely an indirect one is that weight gain occurs with the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, which then can lead to type 2 diabetes,” Khan says. “Certainly, if you are at genetic risk of diabetes, with someone in your immediate family a type 2 diabetic, then you should regularly avoid beverages of any kind sweetened with sugar.” Drinks sweetened with fructose or

glucose can also cause weight gain that may lead to insulin resistance and higher blood sugar levels. That’s why the American Diabetes Association advises everyone to limit their intake of beverages such as regular sodas, and fruit, energy and sports drinks. But follow-up studies are key to check on how specific foods, such as syrupy-sweet drinks, may affect diabetes onset, scientists stress. Until findings are definitive, many doctors offer one suggestion to everyone: Lower your intake of sugar and simple carbohydrates. The good news is, you can still enjoy an infrequent dessert without fear of developing diabetes. In general, Khan suggests regarding desserts as only an occasional treat. What’s more, if you can make them more diabetes-friendly then do, but it’s a little tricky. “Traditional desserts have a lot of sugar and fat, so they are probably the toughest to change and alter while still keeping the same look, taste and authenticity,” Khan says. “The main thing to change in any dessert is the amount of sugar, and, if possible, without altering the taste too much, try adding other sweeteners to keep the total amount of sugar down to meet diabetes guidelines.” Even people living with diabetes and

those who are pre-diabetic can have their cake and eat it too. “Just follow a generally well-balanced diet,” says Khan. “And if you occasionally indulge in sweets or high-calorie foods, do so only in moderation so the amount of carbohydrates or added sugar you have at one time won’t raise your blood sugar too much.” Khan says she created her cookbook for certain populations who are at higher risk genetically of getting type 2 diabetes, such as folks of South Asian, Caribbean or African backgrounds. Suggests Khan, “The key is prevention, and in the case of type 2 diabetes, making good lifestyle choices (watching your diet and exercising) to ensure you do not get diabetes.” But, she says, “With proper meal planning and knowing how to manage food on your plate, you can save room for dessert.” ■

Crave Dessert? HOW TO CREATE DIABETES-FRIENDLY SWEET TREATS Although you may find it hard to believe, people with diabetes can enjoy cakes, cookies, pies, tarts and other delectable desserts of all kinds. But these usually off-limits sweets must be either eaten in moderation or modified to make them appropriate for a diabetic’s after-dinner satisfaction. If you choose to modify a dessert, says Sobia Khan, RD, MSc, author of the cookbook 150 Best Indian, Asian, Caribbean and More Diabetes Recipes, simply cut back on the sugar and make some additional adjustments to the ingredients, as shown below. You can satisfy your sweet tooth without guilt or worry about your health. ■ Use substitute sweeteners to ease sugar out of your dessert equation. ■ Skip butter or shortening, ghee or lard, and use oils. ■ Forget cream, or use less of it, and switch to using milk with 1 percent fat, or skim milk. ■ If the recipe screams for chocolate, try using darker chocolate, 70 percent or more, and use pure cocoa, not a premade chocolate that may have added sugar. ■ Try whole wheat, spelt, soy, millet, buckwheat or oat flour instead of white flour to lower the dessert’s glycemic index (the ranking of a food’s effect on blood sugar levels) and add fiber. ■ It’s OK to eat your favorite dessert occasionally; just don’t go overboard, Khan suggests. “If you know you’re going to have dessert, cut down on carbs, such as rice, bread or pasta, earlier in the meal to avoid a spike in blood sugar.”





ne common misconception about those with Alzheimer’s is that the disease immediately robs them of their independence. But this isn’t necessarily so. Like Marie, many people in the early stages of the disease may simply



Clockwise from left: Maxine Larman, Marie K. Williams, Terrie M. Williams and Josephine Floyd in New York City



hen Terrie Williams talks about her 82-year-old mom, Marie, her eyes soften and her voice throbs with an emotional mixture of love, pride and pain. Williams’s mother is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, a decline in mental ability that’s severe enough to interfere with daily life. Williams is the founder and CEO of The Terrie Williams Agency, a public relations firm. She’s also an internationally known lecturer and mental health activist, in addition to her being a sought-after inspirational speaker who frequently travels. “It’s hard because I run a business and you have to go out and generate business; it’s a tremendous responsibility,” Williams says. “But I’m juggling.” One of the things Williams is juggling is caring for Marie, whose cognitive decline began with one of the common early signs of Alzheimer’s. “I started forgetting stuff,” Marie says. Sitting in the chair next to Marie’s, Terrie quietly watches her mom before adding more details about what happened next. “We had to take her to a neurologist,” she says. “But you know what? He didn’t know. He never used the word ‘Alzheimer’s.’” Williams also visited the same doctor. She had concerns because her father died in 2013 of advanced dementia and then her mother began becoming forgetful. “It runs in my family, so I thought it would be a smart move to get myself a brain scan. Nothing showed up.” When she spoke with the neurologist again about her mother, this time he named the disease and discussed Alzheimer’s. “He said, ‘Typically, doctors don’t say the word to their patient,’” Williams says, as she looks at her mother. “Then it just began to be this journey of trying to understand and just assuming more of a caregiving role because my mom is still very independent. She’ll walk around the block and get right back on her own.” For a moment she pauses, then directly engages her mother. “What are you thinking right now?” “Well, I know that I forget a lot of stuff,” Marie replies. “I put things on my calendar so when I don’t remember what I’m supposed to do, I have it on the calendar. Then I know, OK, this is what I’m doing today. I just make a routine for myself.”

suffer from short-term memory loss without suffering a decline in their ability to think. For a person with Alzheimer’s this kind of mild cognitive impairment doesn’t affect their ability to perform everyday tasks at work or at home, and it doesn’t otherwise stop them from functioning normally. “I know what my limitations are,” Marie says. “But I can put my sneakers on and go for a walk.” Sometimes, Marie, who was a social worker for the Mt. Vernon, New York, school system, walks over to the Board of Education offices to visit friends and associates. “I think I function very well,” she says. At one point, Marie was still driving her car. “Mom was just very independent and drove herself everywhere,” Williams says. “But I remember when it became clear that she couldn’t, or shouldn’t, continue to drive.” So Williams asked her mother to surrender the car keys. “I’d say that was one of the most gut-wrenching things to do,” Williams recalls. “My sister came from upstate New York because we knew that we needed to have that conversation with my mother together. That was a tough one.” To help ease a loved one through this transition, the Alzheimer’s Association’s Dementia and Driving Resource

Center advises family members who must broach this difficult subject to deal with this issue in the early stage of the illness. The association suggests the conversation be planned out step by step to include how to start the talk, ways to address resistance and what to do if the talk isn’t successful. They advise that it may become necessary to enlist the family doctor to write a letter or prescription saying your loved one mustn’t drive. In addition, it may be helpful to ask an objective third party—someone of authority or an individual the person with Alzheimer’s trusts and respects—to weigh in. And if the conversation fails, then, like Williams says her sister, Lani, did, you must “put your foot down.” That means taking away the car keys, or removing or disabling the vehicle. “She didn’t fight, but she kept giving reasons to show that she could drive,” Williams recalls. But, eventually, Marie relinquished the car keys to her daughters.


ut Marie is still self-sufficient in other aspects of her life. She’s perfectly able to take her medications that Diana Valdes, a nurse and family friend, sets up for her each week. At one point, Williams worried about whether her mother would be able to handle taking her medications by herself. But the real hurdle was to get her mom to let someone come in to organize the prescription drugs. “That was a bit of a transition too,” she reminds her mother, “because you didn’t want that for a while.” “Then I accepted it,” Marie says. “She probably could do it by herself,” says Josephine Floyd, who sits at the table on a chair next to Williams. “But we just didn’t want to risk it.” As she speaks, she looks at Marie who is seated across from her. “Now her meds are lined up and all she has to do is go by what date it is and take what’s there.” Floyd is Marie’s sister, the only other one of her nine siblings still living. In the family, Floyd is better known as Aunt Jo. Williams calls this tall, stately woman “the rock of the family,” who is “like a second mother” in their clan. “She makes these meals for mom, so her freezer is full of Aunt Jo’s cooking,” Williams says. “And her husband, who we call ‘Uncle Floyd,’ he’s a blessing. If there are things that need to be taken care of, such as the house or my car, it’s Uncle Floyd to the rescue!” Besides Williams, who is her mother’s primary caretaker, and Aunt Jo and her husband, Terrie’s sister, Lani, and Terrie’s niece, Pat, are some of the other family members who stand ready to help. In addition, Williams says, her mother has a wide circle of friends in Mt. Vernon, where she lives, who regularly take her out for lunches and dinners. Says Floyd, “Momma always taught us that family should stick together, and that’s what we’ve always done. We look after each other.” Not family, but considered as such, Maxine Larman is Williams’s home aide. She is another member of Marie’s dedicated support system. Larman works with Marie five hours each day, for five days each week, under Williams’s and Floyd’s supervision.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for caregivers such as Williams is to make sure they have enough time for themselves. But this means that sometimes Williams must put herself first. “There are times I know that mom would like some company, and perhaps wants me to spend the night at her place,” Williams says. “But I don’t do it as often because I need space. I’m mindful of what I have to do to protect myself so that I could be there for her. And it’s an honor and a blessing to be there for her, in terms of all that she did and gave to me and to my sister. It’s a labor of love, and it’s a lot—and Mom knows that.” Indeed, many caregivers find themselves quickly overwhelmed, especially if they have no other help. “But it’s OK to reach out to people,” Floyd says. “I learned that.” For Williams, a single woman who has an adopted son, thinking about her mother’s decline also makes her consider her own future. She too is at genetic risk of Alzheimer’s. Says Williams, “I remember my mother saying, ‘We should get you a daughter to have somebody take care of you like you take care of me.’” For a moment her voice catches in her throat, and then she finishes speaking. “That was an emotional moment.” ■

LOVE YOU TOO HOW TO CARE FOR YOURSELF WHEN YOU’RE CARING FOR OTHERS According to the Alzheimer’s Association, women make up more than 60 percent of those giving care to others who have Alzheimer’s and dementia. Caregivers routinely lose sleep and suffer from poor personal health. Here’s how health experts suggest they care not only for others, but for themselves too. Find local support services to get help. There are resources that can link you with adult day care, respite care (to give yourself a break from caregiving), training programs and support groups in your community and online, according to Ask Medicare, an Internet information source that offers helpful tips on caregiving and a variety of other health services. Visit and take a look. Connect with other caregivers for much-needed support. When you share your experiences with others going through the same thing, not only do you realize that you’re not alone, but you also discover an effective way to relieve built-up stress that can be harmful to your health. Send out an SOS. Don’t let pride stop you from simply asking for help when you need it. There are many personal and professional resources in communities that offer support or assistance to caregivers for meal management, transportation, social activities or other services. Some may even be free. Take care of you. If you aren’t healthy and strong enough, how can you be of help to others? Experts suggest you eat properly, get regular exercise, make time for yourself each week to do something you enjoy, and don’t forget your own checkups and doctors’ visits.



Are you sick and tired of hair breakage? By Jeanette L. Pinnace






FRIENDLY HAIR ADVICE THIS 10-POINT CHECKLIST CAN SAVE YOU SOME GRIEF. You may already be practicing some of these measures, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure you’re doing everything you can to steer clear of hair-damaging habits.

1. When washing your hair, focus on

cleansing the scalp. Let the water remove dirt from your strands.

2. Condition after every shampoo. Black hair needs to be hydrated since it is often dry. 3. Don’t rub your hair with the towel. Simply wrap your head so the water is absorbed. 4. Gently detangle hair with a wide-tooth comb; don’t pull or tug tresses. 5. Limit heat on hair to once each week at the most. (Reminder: Use a heat protectant.) 6. Don’t use a curling iron each day; wrap or set hair on satin-covered rollers.

7. Pulling the hair too tightly is a no-no.

Many people end up with no hairline or thinned-out tresses because of this practice.

8. If you rock weaves or extensions, opt for install methods that don’t pull on the hair. 9. To preserve length and avoid shrinkage of natural hair, spray hands with water and run lightly over tresses instead of directly misting your mane.

10. Don’t comb your hair if you’re in a hurry. Simply pull that bad boy back and deal with it when you have more time. As one popular naturalista said on YouTube, consistently observing some or all of these little habits can help to prevent breakage, preserve your hair’s length and encourage your tresses to grow.


ow that lots of YouTube videos have proved that black tresses can grow waist-length and inches beyond, why hasn’t your crowning glory become just like one of those success stories you’ve been watching online? The answer may be breakage. Still, here’s a scientific fact that says hope springs eternal: Hair grows. But because tresses can also suffer from damage, split ends, dryness, illness and the effects of certain meds, breakage is a perennial possibility. Th is is why we have to do everything in our power to make sure that our hair is in good condition and breakage is minimized, or even better, totally eliminated. In her practice, Amy McMichael, MD, a dermatologist at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, says the major causes of hair breakage she’s seen include “weathering, such as heat; lots of brushing and combing; and applying color.” Adds McMichael, “The other issue is that most women older than age 45 have some degree of hair fragility, and African-American women have the most fragility of all. Add a bit of heat and color to moderately fragile hair and this causes increased breakage.” According to McMichael, people of African descent have weaker hair shafts. This means when coiled, curly tresses are wet and tangled, you should only touch your hair with reverent fingers. Your hair must be handled with tender, loving care, or else you may see those precious strands stuck in your comb or brush, or strewn on your floor. Black hair, especially in its natural state, is very delicate. Those of us with kinky coils or curls must detangle our hair gently. A little patience goes a long way to addressing breakage and preserving length. Another suggestion from hair care experts is to apply a detangler before combing your tresses to help soften the hair. As McMichael mentions, over-manipulation of your mane is another problem that can lead to hair breakage. Be warned: Too much handling of hair strands is a sure way to promote breakage and assure you’ll never retain any of that precious, hard-won length. Examples of “handling the hair” include the following unwise moves: changing styles every day; marathon sessions monopolizing the mirror as you twist and pull your hair this way and that to achieve a certain style; and applying heat, chemicals or other texture-changers to your tresses without using protective treatments or giving your hair time to rest and recover between processes. In addition, when it comes to breakage, many sisters are ambivalent about trimming their hair. Some people believe that trimming means they’ll lose all the length they’ve achieved. Many women see the ends of their strands thin out and never make the connection that this is where the hair breaks off. But a trim is an essential part of avoiding breakage and maintaining length. “The hair should be trimmed every six to eight weeks for optimum health of the hair shaft,” McMichael suggests. Finally, one of the key weapons in the war against breakage is a healthy diet. The importance of eating enough protein cannot be overstressed. Since a strand of hair is composed primarily of protein, it’s essential to eat the proper servings of lean meats, such as chicken or fish, each day, in addition to other nutrients needed to strengthen hair, such as iron and vitamin E. And get nutrients from nourishing foods rather than supplements. Says McMichael, “A healthy diet is imperative for healthy hair.” ■

Body Glide for Her (0.80 oz., $7.99) This is one product in a line of balms that are made of plant-derived wax and apply smoothly to moisturize and protect skin from irritation, chafing, pain and blisters,

Bio Seaweed Gel (15 ml., $18) Try more than 114 rich, vibrant hues in this line of durable gel polishes. The gel cures in the sun and is free of the five most harmful chemicals commonly found in other nail polish brands,

Stuff We Love


Yumbutter (7 oz. pouches, $6.99 to $7.99; 16 oz. jars, $9.99 to $13.99) These nutritious nut and seed butters offer several flavors, including superfoods blends of chia, hemp seeds and goji berry to provide complete protein, a double dose of omega-3s and antioxidants,

ESSIO Aromatherapy Diffuser (starter kit with three pods of blended organic essential oils, $44.99) Attach this device to your shower, turn the tap and enjoy a unique and rejuvenating spa experience at home,

Herbal Tea Concentrate (3.53 oz., $41.70) Mix a little more than half a teaspoon into up to 8 ounces of hot or cold w water for a refreshing, reshing, low-calorie, metabolism-boosting m-boosting tea; available in different flavors,

CHI 44 Iron Guard (8.5 fl. oz., $15) Red carpet stylists suggest prepping hair with this thermal spray to protect tresses from hot styling tools,

Honeydrop Beverages (10 fl. oz., immunity-boosting osting Apple Ginger Lemon, $84 84 for case of 12; detoxifying ing Lemon Cayenne Cleanse, nse, $50 for case of 12) These cold-pressed juices contain ontain a tablespoon of eitherr raw manuka honey or raw w local honey (sourced from NY, NJ and CT) and boast beneficial vitamins, enzymes and nutrients,


My Big Decision to Use a Little Word When a friend asked me for a loan, I struggled with guilt but finally dug deep and said no.

A very dear girlfriend of mine once asked me to lend her $500 so she could make a down payment on a car. She was in between jobs and didn’t have a steady source of income. I’d loaned my friend money before, but never this much. She was jobless, and this made me extremely uncomfortable. After agonizing for several days about what I would tell her, I decided to give her a straightforward answer. I didn’t want to tell her on the phone, so I went to see her at home. As soon as I walked into her apartment, I got right to the issue. I told her that I’d checked my finances and couldn’t afford to loan her any money. I ended the conversation by saying, “I’m really sorry I couldn’t help you.” Amazingly, I felt no guilt because that certainly was the truth. —As told to Kate Ferguson

The Expert Says

It may be hard not to say yes to friends who ask us to do them favors, but experts strongly advise that we keep practicing. It’s Saturday, and a longtime friend you never see is in town for just this one weekend. She wants you to go to the movies with her in the evening, but you have a report due Monday and you know it’ll take every available minute to finish on time. You’re in agony because you hate to tell her no. Well, you’re not alone, according to psychologist Susan Newman, PhD, who authored The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It—And Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever. Many people find it hard to utter that little two-letter word, N-O, especially women. This is because women are raised to be “nurturing and caring,” Newman says, and saying Y-E-S is a habit they’ve learned to please others. But fear is also one of the reasons many women agree to all sorts of favors and tasks. Often, women fear they’ll be left out of a group if they turn down someone’s request, or they believe their friends may think they’re “lazy and uncaring,” Newman says. But think of it this way, she suggests: When you say no to people, it’s a way of saying yes to keeping your life uncomplicated and easing pressure on yourself. 3 6 REAL HEALTH S P R ING 2015


So how do I say no? First, don’t use euphemisms—for example, “I don’t think so,” or “I’m not sure.” You want it clearly understood that you’ve said no, so speak with authority and confidence. Should I give a reason for saying no? In a word, no! Keep it brief and simple. You can say why you’re saying no, but don’t try to justify it or explain your reasons. Remember, you have a right to say no for any reason whatsoever. Suppose the person refuses to accept no for an answer? Calmly repeat yourself. Feel free to look annoyed, or simply shake your head. Any reasonable person should get it and stop asking at that point. But if he or she is unreasonable, be prepared to walk away.


Sorry, No Can Do

Some ways are better than others to just say nope.


SPEAK YOUR MIND! (And Win Free Stuff)

Five years ago, when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law as part of health care reform, many people were confused about health insurance. And today, despite plenty of available information, health reform still remains a mystery to many people. Please take our survey below and tell us how you feel about health insurance under the ACA. New to yoga? Try this DVD!

As a thank-you, we’ll select two winners at random from among the completed surveys we receive and send these readers a fitness DVD (suggested retail price: $12.99). For official contest rules, please visit

1. Do you believe everyone should be legally required to obtain health insurance?

12. What is your household income?

❑ Yes ❑ No

❑ $15,000–$34,999

❑ Under $15,000 ❑ $35,000–$49,999

2. Should certain medical procedures not qualify for health insurance coverage under the ACA?

❑ $50,000–$74,999

❑ Yes ❑ No

❑ $100,000 and over

3. Should there be an age limit for children who want to get coverage on their parents’ insurance under the ACA?

13. What is the highest level of education attained?

❑ Yes ❑ No

❑ Some college

❑ $75,000–$99,999

❑ Some high school ❑ High school graduate ❑ Bachelor’s degree or higher

4. Should senior citizens have to meet certain qualifications to get insured under the ACA?

14. What is your ethnicity?

❑ Yes ❑ No

❑ American Indian or Alaska Native ❑ Arab or Middle Eastern

5. Should you be required to give up any current coverage to get health insurance under the ACA?

❑ Asian

❑ Yes ❑ No

❑ Hispanic or Latino

❑ Black or African American ❑ Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander

6. Do you think the ACA’s health savings account plan offers people any real benefits?

❑ White ❑ Other

❑ Yes ❑ No

15. Where do you get Real Health? 7. Do the metallic plan levels of the ACA make sense to you?

❑ I’m a subscriber

❑ Yes ❑ No

❑ My church

❑ My doctor’s office ❑ A community or college organization

8. Should employers have to provide health insurance for their employees?

❑ It was mailed to me ❑ Other:_______________________

❑ Yes ❑ No

16. Do you have Internet access? 9. Is it OK that birth control is available with no out-of-pocket cost under the ACA?

❑ Yes ❑ No

❑ Yes ❑ No

17. Name:___________________________________________ 18. Organization (if you represent one):______________________ 19. Street address:_____________________________________________ 20. City & state:________________________________________________ 21. ZIP code:____________________________________________________ 22. Email:_______________________________________________________ 23. Phone:_______________________________________________________

10. What year were you born?_________ 11. What is your gender? ❑ Female

❑ Male

❑ Transgender

❑ Other

Spring 2015

Real Health Spring 2015  

Real Health Magazine serves up honest, cutting-edge information for African-Americans on fitness, diet/nutrition, prevention, treatment, sex...

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