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Ah, February. The month dedicated to celebrating love and relationships.
But before you take a deep dive down the Valentine’s Day candy aisle, consider a healthier way to show yourself and loved ones some love.
February is American Heart Month, a time for Latinos and all people to focus on their cardiovascular health.
Join us in raising awareness of heart disease, the driving forces behind it, and how to address it throughout the month of February and beyond.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions, according to the CDC.
The most common type of heart disease in the US is coronary artery disease, which can restrict blood flow to the heart and cause a heart attack.
Other forms of heart disease include irregular heartbeats, congenital heart defects (heart problems you’re born with), and heart muscle and heart valve disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
What are Risk Factors for Heart Disease?
Risk factors for heart disease include high blood cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, being overweight/obese, having an unhealthy diet, being physically inactive, and excessive alcohol use, according to the CDC.
Hypertension is also a risk factor for heart disease.
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension is high blood pressure.
High blood pressure can make it harder for your heart to pump blood through your body, increasing the risk for a heart attack or heart failure, which are symptoms of heart disease.
Hypertension develops overtime and can happen due to many of the same factors that cause heart disease, including being physically inactive, having diabetes, and being overweight/obese, according to the CDC.
Therefore, hypertension and heart disease go hand in hand. Fortunately, both can be managed and prevented with healthy lifestyle choices.
Latinos and Hypertension/Heart Disease
However, Latinos face multiple health inequities that make it difficult to live a healthy lifestyle. These include less access to preventive healthcare, safe places to exercise, nutritious food, and safe housing and working conditions.
As a result, Latinos may have a harder time preventing and managing heart disease and hypertension, even if they do generally have lower rates of heart disease compared to other ethnic groups.
In fact, certain areas with high Latino populations are considered “hotbeds” for heart disease, such as the southern US, where health inequities are prevalent.
“Social risk factors for heart disease are more common in the South,” Dr. Donald Barr, professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told Health Day. “The disparity in heart disease deaths is not about hospital care. It’s about broader social structure.”
In addition to health inequities, culture can also have an impact on Latinos’ risk for heart disease and hypertension.
Latinas may be especially at risk, considering they tend to put their needs of their families before their own.
“Many Hispanic women have said that they are more likely to take preventative action for their families when it comes to heart health. However, they end up completely ignoring their own health in the process, and these acts of selflessness can become deadly,” according to the American Heart Association.
In fact, on average, Latina women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Latinas, and only 1 in 3 Latinas are aware that heart disease is one of their top killers, according to the American Heart Association.
Heart disease is also a top killer for Latinos, according to the CDC.
Unfortunately, heart disease doesn’t discriminate and affects young Latinos, too.
According to the American Heart Association, from 2015 to 2018, 52.3% of Latinos and 42.7% of Latinas aged 20 years and older had cardiovascular disease, which refers to a range of conditions, including heart disease.
What Can You Do to Decrease Your Risk of Hypertension/Heart Disease?
The CDC offers these helpful resources for maintaining your heart health.
You can prevent hypertension by eating a healthy diet, keeping yourself at a healthy weight, being active, not smoking, limiting how much alcohol you drink, and getting a good night’s sleep.
You can manage hypertension by managing your blood pressure on a regular basis, managing your diabetes, taking any prescribed medication, making healthy lifestyle changes, and seeing your doctor regularly for checkups.
You can check your blood pressure at home, at a doctor’s office, or a pharmacy. When taking your blood pressure, be sure to follow these directions.
What Can You Do to Reduce the Risk of Hypertension/Heart Disease in Your Community?
However, we must fix systemic health inequities to sustainably improve Latino heart health.
“Latinos are disproportionately affected by diabetes and obesity, two important risk factors for hypertension and heart disease,” said Dr. Amelie Ramirez, director of Salud America! and its home base, the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio. “Policy leaders must work toward addressing the health inequities that continue to put Latinos at risk for poor heart health, including lack of access to health insurance, safe places to exercise, and nutritious food.”
You can help promote heart health where you live for Latinos and all people, too.
Select your county and get a Health Equity Report Card by Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio.
In your report card, you will see maps, data, and gauges to compare health equity issues, including healthcare access and income level, to the rest of your state and nation.
You can email your Health Equity Report Card to local leaders to stimulate community change. Use the data in your materials or share on social media to raise awareness.
Get your Health Equity Report Card!
You can also view a CDC map depicting heart disease cases nationwide. How does your area compare to the rest of the country?
see a map of heart disease rates in the us!
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