A few months ago, I was watching Netflix for Dave Chappelle’s iconic return.  Around the 17-minute mark during, “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” he mentions the number one killer of black people.  He paused, so I was thinking he was going to say police or maybe other black people, but he didn’t.  I was shocked when he shouted, “SALT.”

Since my mother is a Doctor, I knew it was true but that didn’t stop the tears of laughter that came running down my face. Then it hit me.

“When is the last time I went to the doctor?”

I couldn’t remember so I asked, “Why haven’t I been to the doctor?”

Here I am, the son of a Doctor, educated, and with free health care and I still haven’t been to the doctor since my mom made me go back in college.  It is a blessing that I haven’t had to go for health concerns, but at the same time I felt a little ashamed.


As Dave continued, he stated, “I’m dying from the flavoring,” I realized I had to do research on this topic.

I found health issues that were alarming to me as an African American male, like high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol, prostate cancer, and diabetes.  Much to my surprise, the amount of salt consumed along with the rest of their diet, their genetic predisposition, and the amount of exercise they participate in, effects men’s overall health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40% of African Americans suffer from high blood pressure.

  • It is known as a “silent and deadly killer.”
  • It can lead to heart disease and stroke.
  • For African American males their blood pressure should be checked regularly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40% of African Americans suffer from obesity.

  • Obesity is essentially one’s body mass index (BMI) being north of the defined range.
  • Being overweight or obese can lead to negative health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30% of African Americans suffer from heart disease.

  • One type of heart disease is when blood vessels are narrowed or blocked which typically leads to a heart attack or stroke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 60% of African Americans suffer from diabetes.

  • Diabetes is a condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar (glucose). The body can’t produce insulin or resists insulin.
  • Diabetes can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Dieting and exercise are the keys to lowering one’s risk of the health concerns listed above.  For example, high cholesterol increases your chances of heart disease, stroke, and other life-threatening illnesses.  Avoid foods that are high in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.

To reduce the risk of health concerns consider the following diet tips:

  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans.
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products are healthy choices.
  • Try to eat lean meats, poultry, & fish.

Exercising, along with dieting, can lead to better health. Find a moderate physical activity that you like and engage in that activity for an hour three days a week.

From the research, I realize men have higher death rates than women and as an African American male I understand it is important to invest in my health since most of the disparities in my community are preventable.  After Dave Chappelle’s comedy special was over, I started looking for a health provider and contemplating how I could incorporate healthier options into my diet.


By:  Franklin O’ Connor

© 2015 Colorado Black Health Collaborative
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