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Corazón, ¡por favor, cuídese!

Maria Palafox, MD

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States across all
races.

We as Latinos and Hispanos face even higher risk of heart disease because high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes are more common in our community. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke in our community, and many people don’t know they have it. 

You will not know unless you check it because you won’t feel differently if your blood pressure is high. In the Mexican-American family, food is love. Pero se nos pasa la mano: 80 percent of Mexican-American men and 76 percent of women age 20 and older are overweight or obese. 

The numbers are similar for how many of us do not get enough exercise: in Mexican-American women, a staggering 88 percent of us do not get the recommended amount of exercise. In addition, 11 percent of Hispanic women have diabetes, and another 5 percent of women have it and don’t even know it. 

Why are the numbers worse for women? 

In the Mexican-American family, the mother is the center of our universe, the one most revered and loved. They are the doctor, the chef, the secretary, the gardener and the sergeant for their children, grandchildren, husbands, suegros and neighbors. They are caregiver superwoman, often catering to the needs of everyone but themselves. So many Mexican-American women do not take care of their heart; in fact, they often don’t even know they have heart disease, thinking it is a disease of men.

Symptoms of heart disease are subtle in women. Again, many people walk around with high blood pressure and feel nothing. You will not feel high blood pressure; by the time you feel symptoms of say, a headache or chest pain, it is already critically high. Women may not feel
the classic chest pain that men do if they are having a heart attack. 

The following are six heart attack symptoms that are common in
women:
• Chest pain or discomfort
• Pain in your arm, back, neck
or jaw
• Stomach pain
• Shortness of breath, nausea or
lightheadedness
• Sweating
• Fatigue

Don’t wait to feel these symptoms before you go to the doctor. The American Heart Association’s “Go Red por tu corazón” campaign is promoting a heart healthy lifestyle. You take care of your home, you take care of your children, and you take care of your husband. You take care of everybody else but yourself. But as a MexicanAmerican women, remember that your commitment to your family cannot be met unless you make a commitment to yourself first. Call your doctor today, and make a commitment to yourself to take care of your heart and your health. “Go Red por tu corazón!”

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