Heart disease is the number one killer for all Americans, but did you know that Hispanic women are at an even higher risk? With American Heart Health month upon us, renowned physician Dr. Alvaro Gomez and cardiovascular patient Yaskary Reyes (who underwent a quintuple bypass) joined me to discuss the why Hispanic women are at an increased risk for developing heart disease, and what can be done to help prevent it.
Candace Rose:What percentage of Hispanic women are at risk for heart disease?
Dr. Alvaro Gomez: “Well, recent studies have shown, Candace, that Hispanic women in general are at a higher risk. The prevalence of risk factors for heart disease is very high. Up to 70% of Hispanic women have at least one risk factor for heart disease and 15% of them have three or more, which makes this a very significant problem.
Risk factors being recognized of course- smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. To add to this problem, Candace, we have the problem also that there’s a lack of awareness that heart disease is the number one cause of mortality, particularly amongst Hispanic women. So we have a bad combination of problems here where you have a higher prevalence of risk factors and unawareness that this is a very serious problem- the number one cause of mortality.
Therefore that’s where we have this campaign through WomenHeart.org where we’re trying to educate and raise awareness that this is a really serious problem. Women in general, but particularly Hispanic women need to be aware of this, and this is why Women Heart has created additional materials in Spanish also, and they’re available via the internet at WomenHeart.org. Hispanic women can educate themselves about the risk factors and about going to the doctor, about quitting cigarette smoking, losing weight if you’re overweight. All these important questions are answered on this website, and I strongly encourage everybody to check this out- women in general, but particularly Hispanic women.”
Candace Rose: Are there any other risk factors for Hispanic women? Why are they more at risk than any other group of women?
Dr. Alvaro Gomez: “The five risk factors are same for everyone, but what happens is some segments of Hispanic population do have a genetic predisposition for some of them. There are some segments of the population that are at high risk just genetically- for instance high blood pressure or obesity, so yes there’s a genetic predisposition in some segments of the population, but to that we have to add the social factors.
Now our Hispanic diet is quite delicious, but it’s very rich in complex carbohydrates and salt, which makes the risk factors worse. On top of that, Hispanic populations that have moved to the U.S. have even higher risk factors because to that we have to add fast food diets that are so common in the U.S., and on top of that you have to add the increased level of stress. We’re always working against the clock and that of course increases the risk factors and the mortality for heart disease. But again, the most important thing is to be aware that this is a very serious problem.
Heart disease in women is a very serious problem; it doesn’t respect gender or age. Yarasky Reyes here is a prime example of that. Already at a very young age, she’s had open heart surgery with five bypasses.
Yaskary Reyes: “As a Hispanic woman with heart disease, as doctor said, I have cardiovascular disease and exactly three years ago underwent quintuple open heart surgery, and after my surgery I was fortunate to connect to the organization Women Heart, and now Women Heart has joined with Burlington Coat Factory to launch this important campaign for the Hispanic woman, which is called Para La Mujer Hispana. This campaign educates the Hispanic woman in their own language, in Spanish.
I motivate them to go to the website, WomenHeart.org and I also motivate people to visit Burlington Coat Factory stores and make donations to further improve and continue this important campaign Para La Mujer Hispana.”
Candace Rose: What do you recommend Hispanic women do to prevent heart disease?
Yaskary Reyes: “The first thing is really basic, and that’s being aware. Being aware that this is the number one killer in women, and now with the new studies that have come out, as Dr. Gomez explained, we are at higher risk. So knowing the existence of the disease is important. After we know, and after we are educated, then take action, visit a doctor, do the health screening/test, and then live a healthy lifestyle. Change your eating habits; instead of having delicious fried foods, just switch it for things that are heart healthy and incorporating daily walking into your life. You don’t have to go specifically to a four or five day exercise program, just take it one day at a time and do what you can the most on that day. Take extra steps, when you go to the supermarket park further away from the store so you take that walk every day. There are different things that you can do, but by going to the website WomenHeart.org you can find that inspiration in Spanish, and many more. So I motivate you to donate to this wonderful cause which is very well worth it, and I’m thankful that I’m here being a spokesperson for Women Heart and bringing awareness to women in general, and to Hispanic women.”