Feature illustration by Alejandro Louis

The chance that you, as a Latino, will die from heart disease or stroke is higher than any other health-related death in the United States.

The issue here is that Latinos compared to non-Latinos of any race, are the least-aware community when it comes to heart disease. Latinos are also less likely than all other groups to exercise. I’m not making this up to scare you. All of this information is coming from the American Heart Association, and given that this is Heart Awareness Month, Gozamos thought it would be a good time to let you in on information that can save your life.

According to the AHA, heart disease accounts for a third of the deaths among Latinas and more than 27 percent of deaths among Latinos. And guess what? Latinas are also at a higher risk due to other problems they have. For example, 22 percent of Latinas between the ages of 20 and 74 have high blood pressure. About 12.5 percent of women 18 and older smoke in the Latino community and, to top the sundae off with a cherry, about 48 percent of Latinas have a total blood cholesterol of 200 mg/dL or higher. Yep. Oh, and did I mention that heart disease is tied in to diabetes? Yes, because Latinos are prone to diabetes, this also puts them at a very high risk of heart disease.

What are we learning here, kiddies? We’re learning that Latinos don’t really take care of themselves. This is why we have to educate ourselves a little more every day and make conscious decisions to keep ourselves healthy.

However, I did come across some information that says quite the contrary. The Office of Minority Health, part of the CDC, states that, in 2009, Latinos were 10 percent less likely to have heart disease, compared to non-Latino whites, although Mexican American women were 20 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than non-Latina white women.

Either way, it is necessary that Latinos start taking care of themselves by taking various health-related precautions.

If necessary, it is important that Latinos quit smoking, lose weight, drink alcohol in moderation, and exercise regularly. It’s not just about knowing what to do but actually doing these different things. Latinos also love to eat. Here are some foods that will keep your heart in tip-top shape if you add them to your diet on a regular basis. The great things is that they can all be snack foods or added to your larger meals: avocados, cinnamon, salmon, yogurt, soy, spinach, beans, berries, almonds and olive oil. All of these foods have nutrients and/or fats that are heart-healthy and keep your ticker, ticking.

It is no surprise that diabetes and heart disease go hand in hand, especially since there are cases when people don’t realize they have diabetes until they have a heart attack or stroke.

But try to look at it optimistically: If you prevent for heart disease, or diabetes, you’ll be preventing so many different diseases in the future, clearly prolonging life and setting prime examples for younger family members for years to come.

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