“I thought it couldn’t be true,” says Eva Gomez. “In my mind, I take care of other people. There’s no way that I will be the one who has to be cared for.”
Like many other Hispanic women, Eva spent her time as a caregiver for her family rather than thinking about herself. The result? Thirteen years of an ignored heart murmur.
Many Hispanic women have said that they more likely to take preventative action for their families when it comes to heart health. However, they end up completely ignoring their own health in the process, and these acts of selflessness can become deadly.
Here are some stats:
- On average, Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanics.
- Only 1 in 3 Hispanic women are aware that heart disease is their No. 1 killer.
Why Hispanic women?
While heart disease doesn’t discriminate, you could argue that it does have a bit of a penchant for racial bias where Hispanic and Latina women are concerned. And the statistics above are proof.
Why? “Hispanic women think [heart disease] is something that is ‘my’ problem and they don’t want to share it with their family,” explains Myrna Aguilar. “It makes it more difficult for them to get the help they need.”
Myrna, unlike most Hispanic women, was proactive about her health. Heart disease shared a long history with her family. But as she grew older, she became determined to stop the disease that claimed the lives of too many family members for so long. “I decided no more,” she said.
Myrna knew firsthand the challenges that face Hispanic women: they take on the role of caregiver superwoman, catering to the needs of everyone but themselves. And that catering largely has to do with food.
For Hispanic and Latina women, cooking for family is an act of love that can involve unhealthy pork products and lard. And the more they assimilate to American traditions, the quality of their diets really deteriorate.
Turn the corner to a heart-healthy life
To address these issues, the American Heart Association launched Go Red Por Tu Corazón, which promotes a heart-healthy lifestyle among Hispanic women, building on the strong ties to family and cultural traditions.
As a Hispanic woman, remember that your commitment to your family cannot be met unless you make a commitment to yourself first. A commitment that Maricela Wilson didn’t make until after she was diagnosed with heart disease.
“You take care of your home, you take care of your children, you take care of your husband,” says Maricela. “You take care of everybody else but yourself. You come in last.”
Today, Eva, Myrna, Migdalia and Maricela are more committed to their families than ever before. And they’re fiercely committed to putting their own health issues first.
“I Go Red for myself, my family and all Hispanic women,” Maricela proudly declares.
Just like these ladies, you can reverse this trend in your own family – and in your own life. Being born Hispanic does not have to be synonymous with heart disease, or death. But in order to do that, you have to share the passion and love you have for your family with yourself.