Dennis "Denny Moe" Mitchell is a legend in Harlem. For those who may not recognize his name, they are sure to know his famed business - Denny Moe's SuperStar Barbershop, located at 2496 Fredrick Douglas Boulevard between 133rd and 134th Streets. The shop is not only known for great cuts, and celebrity clients, but it's also a great hub for information.
"It's where people go to voice to opinion about community issues, and rally others for their cause," says Mitchell. But ever since Master Barber, Dennis Mitchell, learned he had Type-2 diabetes, he has a new cause -- living a healthy life style.
"I now have a whole new outlook on eating," says Mitchell. The 45-year-old has been married for 25 years and has four grown children. He says he'll never forget the day he found out. It was February 14, Valentines Day.
"My mother was diagnosed with diabetes 35 years ago. I just never thought it would happen to me," recalls Mitchell.
This weekend, Mitchell will take part in the 2010 Central Harlem Health Revival. The event was created in 2006 by The Office of Minority Health of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Borough of Manhattan Ecumenical Advisory Group (BMEAG) to address the magnitude of the disparity in the quality of the health and health care of Central Harlem residents.
"The CHHR revival is designed to empower Harlem residents to truly manage their health and to combat the high rates of preventable diseases and their devastating impact on the community," explains event co-chair Patricia Butts, First Lady, Abyssinian Baptist Church.
This year the event is doing something different. Participants will be tracked for a year, to make sure they are sticking to their goals to improve their health, as they live with their illnesses.
"Our goal is to build a coalition to pool our resources and efforts, so that we can make a difference," says Butts.
Using data from a government health study, researchers found that African Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 had nearly twice the prevalence of cardiovascular disease -- a history of heart attack, heart failure or stroke -- than their white counterparts.
Heart disease and cancer are the first and second leading cause of death for African-Americans nationwide. Cardiovascular diseases rank as the number one killer of African-Americans claiming the lives of over one-third of the more than 292,000 African-Americans who die each year. The rate of high blood pressure in African-Americans is among the highest in the world at about 44 percent. African-Americans develop high blood pressure earlier in life and have much higher average blood pressures compared to whites, contributing to a higher rate of fatal stroke. Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death among African-Americans.
Dr. Kristie Lancaster, a registered dietitian and associate Professor of Nutrition at New York University, says in general, African Americans must change the way they view food. In addition, they have to get in more exercise regularly.
"We should be eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and lowering our calories," Dr. Lancaster advices.
As for exercising, Dr. Lancaster says that the recommendation is to get in a half hour during the day. "That doesn't mean you have to belong to a gym. Many people can't afford a membership, or they don't have time to go because of work or children they care for. Look for alternatives ways to exercise, like taking a brisk walk from the subway," says Dr. Lancaster.
Speaking between the shears at his barber shop, Mitchell reflects on how he diabetes has changed the way he views food, and living. "I cut back on the white carbohydrates and fried foods: potatoes, rice, pasta, french fries," says Mitchell. Oh, my hardest sacrifice has been giving up ice cream. It's my favorite," he adds.
Dr. Lancaster points out that you don't have to give up your favorite foods altogether, just have them in moderation. "Having ice cream every so often, in small portions is fine. Just be careful of how much you eat, and how often you do," she says.
"I feel great. I'm even more encouraged to eat better and beat this diabetes for my children," says Mitchell. .
When it comes to the overall health of African American, far too many suffer from debilitating diseases such as diabetes, stroke, lung cancer, obesity, prostate cancer, and high blood pressure. However, with proper exercise, nutrition, regular medical check-ups, and practicing preventative measures, the high incidence among blacks, with these medical conditions can be significantly reduced. And, while there appears to be a direct correlation between the socio-economic condition of a person and the level and quality of healthcare they receive, studies show that by simply making some changes in eating and exercising, African Americans have a much greater chance of leading healthier and longer lives.
The Central Harlem Health Revival (CHHR) will hold its 5th annual Central Harlem Health Revival on Saturday, September 18; Saturday, September 25 and Sunday, September 26. Festivities held at various Harlem locations on these two weekends will include an obesity conference, a youth health conference, a health walk and the annual health festival. All events are free and open to the public. A full schedule of events and submission guidelines for contests and youth programs can be found at www.centralharlemhealthrevival.org
Central Harlem Health Revival Sponsors: AARP, Abyssinian Baptist Church, Alzheimer's Association, American Cancer Society, Bioscrip Pharmacy, Canaan Baptist Church, Church of St. Charles Borromeo and the Chapel of the Resurrection Roman Catholic Church, Church of St. Charles Borromeo and the Chapel of the Resurrection Roman Catholic Church Health Promotion Committee, Columbia University School of Nursing, Convent Avenue Baptist Church, Denny Moe's Superstar Barbershop, Ephesus Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Harlem Health Promotion Center, Harlem Hospital Center, Harlem Hospital's Walk it Out, Mother AME Zion Church, The Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City Mission Society, Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership, Inc, The City Mission Society, The Healthy Sisterhood Inc., The Helen B. Atkinson Health Center, The ISIAH Project, The New York City Council and The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Office of Minority Health, Weight 2 Go and New York Road Runners.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun