The best Mother?s Day gift a woman can receive may come from herself: Her own health. On the day honoring mothers, Latinas should give a gift of life to themselves and their families. That gift doesn?t require a fancy gift-wrap or bow, just some basic knowledge that can be set into action. Latinas need to learn their risk of heart disease and take steps towards a healthy lifestyle.
?The great thing women can do this Mother?s Day is to gift themselves with good health,? said Martha Daviglus, M.D., spokesperson for the American Heart Association and preventive cardiologist and specialist at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago. ?Women need to learn all they can about heart disease and take care of their hearts.?
Specific steps can help keep heart disease and stroke from claiming their own life and the lives of those they love. Heart disease and stroke ? the No. 1 killer of Latinos ? claim the lives of 30 percent of the 107,000 Latino Americans who die each year. The relative risk for stroke in Latinos is about 1.3 times higher up to age 64 when compared to non-Latino whites.
?Latinas are so busy balancing their home, family and jobs, they don?t take time to take care of themselves,? added Daviglus. ?Women, as a rule, are consumed with taking care of their families, but this is particularly true in the Latino population. Often, they are not only taking care of their husbands and children, but also their parents.?
Some Latinos have lifestyle habits that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, such as a high-fat diet, lack of physical activity and smoking. Those who have high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes or who are overweight or obese also have higher risks of heart attack and stroke. But a healthy diet, moderate exercise and quitting smoking can help reduce many of these risk factors.
?Latinas need to learn how to prepare a ?heart-healthy? diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat meats such as chicken or fish,? said Daviglus.
The American Heart Association recommends five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day; six or more servings of whole-grain products; fat-free or low-fat dairy products (two to four times per day, depending on age); fish (twice per week) and skinless chicken or lean meats (no more than 6 oz. cooked per day). A healthy diet and daily exercise can lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure and keep a woman?s weight in check, all of which lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, she said.
Overall, the heart-healthy solution for women is ?to take time out for themselves,? said Daviglus. ?They need to take a walk or go to the gym. Take some down time to reduce stress. Get a check-up and learn their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Then sit down and share a healthy meal with their families.?
?As women learn the importance of exercise, eating a heart-healthy diet and knowing their risk factors for heart disease, they can pass on that same knowledge to their families,? said Daviglus. ?These actions will help them and their entire family improve their cardiovascular health, and that is the best gift of all.?
Image: Detail from "Reflections" by Irene Carranza at http://home.earthlink.net/~mangelo/99/004reflections.html
Edie J. Herons:
Edie J. Herons is the Latino Media Director at the American Heart Association, Western States Affiliate, and is a regular contributor to LatinoLA. She would like to wish all our mothers un ?Feliz Dia de las Madres!