5 Heart Disease Facts Every Latina Should Know

In the United States, a woman suffers a heart attack every 90 seconds. February is American Heart Month – a time to think about what you can do to take care of your heart. Heart disease is the number one killer of women and men in the United States, and the number one killer of Latinas in the U.S. This disease claims the lives of more women than lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes combined. The good news is, most risk factors for heart disease—including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity, and smoking—are preventable and controllable. Controlling these risks could reduce your risk of a heart attack by 80 percent.

Here are five facts about heart disease and five prevention measures to lower your risk of heart disease from Univision's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Juan Rivera.  

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Fact: Heart Disease is Not a Male Disease

One of the biggest misconceptions about heart disease is that it only affects men. This is definitely not the case. Around 80 percent of women ages 40 to 60 have one or more risk factors for heart disease. Having one or more risk factors can majorly increase your chances of developing heart disease. According to research, even having just one risk factor doubles your chances. To find out if you are at risk, you should talk to your doctor. You can also take this quiz from the national cholesterol education program to help determine your risk factor. 

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Fact: Heart Disease Doesn't Just Hurt Adults

Heart disease can begin early, even in your teen years. Women in their twenties and thirties need to begin to take action to reduce their risk. Among U.S. women ages 18 and older, 17.3 percent are current smokers, 51.6 are overweight (BMI of 25 or greater), 27 percent have hypertension, 35 percent have high cholesterol, and 53 percent do not meet physical activity recommendations.

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Fact: Heart Disease Can’t Be Cured

Many women are not concerned about heart disease because they think it can "cured" with modern medicine. This, however, is not the case. Heart disease is a lifelong condition and once you get it, you always have it. Many women die of complications from heart disease, and can even become permanently disabled. This is why it is important to take action to prevent and control this disease at an early age. Taking care of yourself is the best way to protect your health.

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Fact: Family History And Ethnicity Are Important

Family history of early heart disease is another risk factor that can't be changed and shouldn’t be ignored. If your mother or sister had a heart attack before they turned 65, or if your father or brother had one as well, you are more likely to get heart disease. African American and Hispanic women have higher rates of some risk factors. More than 10 percent of Hispanic women have been diagnosed with diabetes, and 83 percent of midlife Hispanic women are overweight or obese.

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Fact: High Blood Pressure is Becoming More Common

Around one in three American women have high blood pressure which is a major contributor to heart disease. High blood pressure is one of the most common contributors to heart disease. When your blood pressure starts to rise, your heart has to work harder which puts the heart under a strain. If high blood pressure is left untreated, the heart will not meet the body's needs. Treating high blood pressure early can decrease the chances of having heart disease and other heart problems later in life.

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Stay Healthy: Sleep 7 to 8 hours a Day

Getting the adequate amount of sleep is very important for prevention of heart disease. “Studies have shown that individuals who sleep to little or too much have an increased risk of suffering a heart attack,” Dr. Rivera said. “Lack of sleep is also associated with weight gain.” If you’re having trouble sleeping watch that caffeine intake after 4 P.M. Also, if you think you may be suffering from insomnia talk to your doctor about whether or not a sleep aid may be right for you.

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Stay Healthy: Follow a Plant-based Diet

When it comes to heart disease, diet plays a very important part.“If you look at societies around the world which primarily have a plant based diet, they have the lowest rates of heart attacks and heart disease,” Dr. Rivera said. Eating a healthy low- fat, low-salt diet full of whole grains, fruit and vegetables, and good fats, is great way to keep your heart nice and healthy. Also make sure you keep your alcohol intake in check- more than two ounces daily should be avoided.

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Stay Healthy: Move!

If you want to keep your heart healthy, you have to move more. “A sedentary lifestyle is associated with heart problems,” Dr. Rivera explains. “Take on a dance class... or Zumba!” Even something as simple as a brisk walk down the street can help! All that matters is that you are moving for at least thirty minutes a day.

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Stay Healthy: Avoid Energy Drinks

Though many of us cannot get through the day with out our caffeine fix, energy drinks are not to way to go. “We have documented the relationship between energy drinks and heart attacks and specially in young individuals,” Dr. Rivera cautions. If you are hooked on energy drinks try iced tea or iced coffee instead. Both have caffeine but are also full of antioxidants.

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Stay Healthy: Relax

Too much stress in your life? Your heart may pay for it down the road. “Stress is associated with high blood pressure and an increased heart attack risk,” Dr. Rivera says. Managing stress is in your daily life is vital for your heart health. So make sure you take some time for yourself everyday, your heart will thank you later.