Editor´s note: We asked Yvonne Condes to contribute this important article to play our part to help spread the word about The Heart Truth´s mission of informing women about heart disease.
Okay, I think we got the message. Heart Disease is the #1 killer of women. It’s been in the news so much lately, how can anyone not know. But what I didn’t know and what was so shocking to me were the alarming rates of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension in Latinas.
Did you know that 2/3 of Latinas are overweight? And 60 percent of Latinas are physically inactive? Or that among Mexican-American women 25 percent have hypertension, 45 percent have high cholesterol, and 75 percent are overweight.
I learned this last week when I was one of a few Latina bloggers on a call with Cristina Rabadán-Diehl, Ph.D., M.P.H. who is the Deputy Director of the Office of Global Health for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. She also helps spread the word about The Heart Truth®, the NHLBI’s campaign to make women aware of heart disease.
She said that by embracing a few lifestyle changes, women can lower their risk of heart disease by 82 percent. Something as simple as taking a 30-minute walk everyday can change the course of your life.
This is great news for people who not only get the message, but act on it. Life is hard right now for a lot of people and in my opinion, putting food on the table, any food, is taking precedence over finding out the calorie and fat content of the family dinner.
So it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves and the people we love on different ways we can lead healthier lives, Rabadán-Diehl said. That starts by setting a good example.
Rabadán-Diehl said one way to set that example is to cook at home. There is a misconception that eating out is cheaper than making meals, but cooking an inexpensive, healthy dinner can be done, she said. And it can be fit into the schedule of a busy working mom. She knows because she did it for her 2 now- adult children while she was building her career. She made it a priority to cook healthy food and she did it by being organized about meal planning.
Cooking nutritious meals is only part of the equation. Latinas must start taking care of their health not just for themselves, but for their children. “Mothers are the role models for their daughters,” she said.
It’s hard, though. I know so many mothers who put their health aside because they are busy taking care of the family.
But Rabadán-Diehl said to ask yourself this sobering question: “How would it affect my family if I had a heart attack?” As mothers we want to be there for our children. “We want to be there to drive them to their soccer games, we want to be there for their quincinera…”
In my family, expect for a few lapses in judgement, my kids are fed balanced meals, and they understand why we want to make healthy choices. What I worry about are my Mexican-American family members who my sister and I have been lecturing for years to eat healthier and exercise. We’ve given them information, cooked meals, and given them a little tough love by telling them what their quality of life could be (or is, sadly) if they don’t start taking care of themselves. But they are used to doing things their way.
This is cultural and very common, Rabadán-Diehl said. And the best thing to do is to love our family and persistently educate them on ways to make healthier choices.
For more information about how you can make healthier choices, look at The Heart Truth for Latinas: An Action Plan on the NHLBI website or check out The Heart Truth resource page to order cookbooks or DVDs with more information. For information in Spanish, download the Spanish speakers kit and video.