Hispanic Women Most at Risk Group for Cardiovascular Disease

The beauty and strength of the Latina/Hispanic culture rests in the family, and the heartbeat of the family is the wife and mother. Unfortunately, heart disease and stroke are attacking that heartbeat. Through the Go Red For Women, (Por la vida, el rojo) campaign, nationally sponsored by Macy’s and Pfizer, the American Heart Association seeks to improve Hispanic women’s heart health by providing education and tools. The association’s Go Red For Women, (Por la vida, el rojo) programs and tools are found online at americanheart.org.

Go Red For Women is also sponsored in part by Bayer Aspirin and an educational grant from PacifiCare Foundation. The American Heart Association also advises learning your family’s medical history and visiting a doctor or clinic to find out if you are at risk for heart disease or stroke. If a healthy diet and regular physical activity aren’t enough, a physician may prescribe medication. Even if women take medication, a healthy diet and physical activity are still important.

As the Latino/Hispanic population grows in the United States, so does the number of deaths related to heart disease and stroke, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers.

The American Heart Association’s Heart and Stroke Statistics 2004 Update says that 32.6 percent of deaths among Hispanic females can be attributed to heart disease and stroke.

Part of the challenge for the Latina/Hispanic community is to raise awareness about the diseases and risk factors. For instance, 70 percent of Latina/Hispanic women who responded to a 2003 Harris Interactive poll said that their doctor never discussed the fact that they are in a high-risk group for heart disease.

As key decision makers for food purchasing in la casa, women need to make heart-healthy food choices to reduce their entire family’s level of excess fat. This will help lower risk for heart disease and stroke. A balanced eating plan filled with fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and a controlled amount of red meat and saturated fat, goes a long way too improve the family’s health.

A balanced eating plan is not the only change necessary to lower excess fat. The heart is a muscle and has to be exercised, too. It’s not necessary to go to the gym or spend endless hours doing strenuous, painful and boring routines. Even moderate physical exercise helps.

A half hour of brisk walking, working in the garden, climbing stairs, cleaning the house or dancing can be beneficial. Parking far from the mall entrance, walking or climbing the stairs to the office, walking or riding a bike to the store, or doing housework all are great ways to get your body moving. (Sweeping and mopping are excellent exercise, especially if you combine them with lively music.)

Knowledge is power, so Latinas everywhere must help their families learn their risks. Each year on your birthday, schedule an appointment with your doctor to have your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels checked, and ask your doctor if you are at risk for heart disease or stroke.

Women face six major risk factors for heart disease that can be prevented, controlled or treated with medications prescribed by your doctor: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco smoke, physical inactivity, obesity or overweight, and diabetes.

Other risk factors like age and family history of heart disease can’t be changed, but you can reduce your individual risk by working with your doctor to create a plan that includes a heart-healthy diet, exercise and medication, if necessary.

For more information about the Go Red For Women, “Por la vida, el rojo campaign,” call 1-888-MY-HEART (1-888-694-3278) and receive the American Heart Association’s red dress pin, a “Por la vida, el rojo” brochure and a wallet card to track cholesterol, blood pressure and weight.

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