Blessed Health: The African-American Woman's Guide to Physical and Spiritual Well-being

Blessed Health: The African-American Woman's Guide to Physical and Spiritual Well-being


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Blessed Health offers African-American women the medical information and inspirational motivation they need to achieve total health — a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

Many black women will go to church all day every Sunday but won't take one day out of the year to get a Pap test and mammogram done. Yet that yearly doctor's visit could help save lives. Often the first people to pray when a serious illness strikes, black women may be the last to seek timely medical care. As a result, they are suffering with, and dying from, manageable illnesses such as heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes more than any other group in the United States.
It doesn't have to be that way. Don't wait until a health emergency happens before turning to your faith and your physician. You can achieve optimal health by arming yourself with medical knowledge and a strong spiritual base. Research has proven that a well-nurtured spiritual self can help to replenish, rejuvenate, and safeguard your physical self.
Written by a prominent African-American OB/GYN and a highly respected journalist, Blessed Health is a personal health and spirituality guide for every stage of a black woman's life. Included here is important information on:
  • How your body works, and what can be done to prevent or help solve common health problems, including pelvic infections and fibroid tumors
  • How to find a doctor that ministers to your physical and emotional needs
  • How to successfully cope with illness, from a faith perspective
  • How spiritual wisdom and prayer can decrease the harmful effects of stress
  • How best to take care of your breasts and reproductive organs, and decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer

and much, much more, including the latest on managing menopause.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743410427
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 02/04/2003
Edition description: Original
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.44(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Dr. Melody T. McCloud is an obstetrician-gynecologist, public speaker and the author of "LIVING WELL, DESPITE CATCHIN' HELL: The Black Woman's Guide to Health, Sex and Happiness." Dr. McCloud lectures nationwide on women's health, sex, negative media images of Black women and social issues. She hosts a 'Health and Happiness' blog at She is a member of the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, serves on an advisory council to the Centers for Disease Control and is a recipient of numerous awards. Called a trailblazing 'Renaissance woman' since the 1970s, McCloud is a media consultant with appearances on many broadcast networks. She is a health expert to the Tom Joyner Morning Show, CNN HLN, and her articles have been printed in USA Today, Essence, Parade, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and numerous other local and national publications. She is also an award-winning poet and an occasional voice-over talent.

Read an Excerpt


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

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



Health Concerns

Distrust of Health Care Professionals

Poverty and Lack of Insurance

Lack of Knowledge

Family Traditions

The Health Care System Itself

It's Time for a Change

Rx: A Prescription for Your Soul


A Brief Overview of the Female Reproductive System

The Brain/Body Connection

Rx: A Prescription for Your Soul


Get in Touch with You — A Health Inventory

Assessing Your Answers

Checkups and Tests

Age-by-Age Test Guide

Rx: A Prescription for Your Soul


Are All Doctors Alike?

Finding the Right Doctor

Getting the Most from Doctor Visits

Understanding Insurance

Rx: A Prescription for Your Soul



Bladder Infections

Other Minor Conditions

Rx: A Prescription for Your Soul





Pelvic Congestion Syndrome

Adnexal Mass

Chronic Pelvic Pain (CPP)

Pelvic Relaxation

Menstrual Disorders

Uterine Anomalies

Sexually Transmitted Diseases



Rare Gynecologic Cancers

Rx: A Prescription for Your Soul


Knowledge Is Power

Common Surgeries

Before You Consent — Seven Important Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Do You Really Need a Second Opinion?

Caring for the Incision

Rx: A Prescription for Your Soul


Work That Body

Walking the Walk

Pump It Up

You Are What You Eat

Rx: A Prescription for Your Soul


The ABCs of Breasts

From Buds to Breasts

A Little TLC

Breast Basics

Could It Be Cancer?

The Facts About Cosmetic Surgery

Rx: A Prescription for Your Soul


A Good Start — Preparing for Pregnancy

The Expectant Mother

The Anatomy of Pregnancy

Testing, Testing

How Your Body Changes

Staying Fit

Complications of Pregnancy

Labor and Delivery

Pregnancy after Age 35


Preventing Pregnancy

Rx: A Prescription for Your Soul


Demystifying Menopause

Signs of Menopause

Raising the Stakes — The More Serious Effects of Menopause

Osteoporosis — The Brittle Bone Disease

The Menopause/Heart Disease Connection

Managing Menopause — Is Estrogen the Solution?

Rx: A Prescription for Your Soul


Cardiovascular Disease

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Coronary Artery Disease



Lung Cancer

Colon Cancer

Rx: A Prescription for Your Soul

Appendix A: The Prescription Center

Appendix B: Glossary

Appendix C: Resources

Appendix D: Sources


What People are Saying About This

Dr. Jeff Gardere

"This book clearly lays out the physiological and psychological stressors that negatively impact Black women's lives, how these women have historically turned their pain to power, and how you too can…live a phenomenal life!" --(Dr. Jeff Gardere, psychologist and popular national TV commentator and Today Show contributor)

Robert M. Franklin Jr. Ph.D.

"Dr. McCloud is an excellent ambassador for health advocacy and women's public health concerns. Her books are sophisticated, data-rich, yet easily relatable. I offer my highest, most enthusiastic endorsement." --(Robert M. Franklin, Jr., Ph.D., President, Morehouse College )

Cynthia Y. Hooper

"Dr. Melody T. McCloud has been in the forefront of the movement to empower and educate women of color for almost a decade. Her new book, Living Well, Despite Catchin' Hell: The Black Woman's Guide to Health, Sex and Happiness goes even further by highlights lifestyle issues critical to women of color. Her book is the only one of its kind to deal with both the physical and psychological factors that continue to impact African-American women." --(Cynthia Y. Hooper, Presiding Officer, The National Organization for African-American Women)


"A wealth of up-to-date information; very important and valuable. An enormously important book. Living Well, Despite Catchin' Hell needs to be read by all Black women and the men who love them." --(Kenneth C. Edelin, M.D., Professor Emeritus, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Boston University)

Pauletta Washington

"A comprehensive guide to help us ensure total health. Each chapter contains a thorough look at the issues Black women face, and offers several solutions to many of these issues. I dedicate my voice to support Dr. McCloud in reaching our Black women." --(Pauletta Washington, musician and wife of Academy-Award winner, Denzel Washington)

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