I grew up exposed to many different races and cultures. As a military kid, I lived all over the country and the world, yet my ideas of the differences between people only went so far.
I didn’t know, for example, that heart disease and stroke affect more Hispanics than whites in our nation until I started my job with the American Heart Association ten years ago. It was then that I learned about the statistics – that Hispanics have a higher prevalence of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. And that these are all risk factors for heart disease.
And I didn’t know that lifestyle is a contributing factor, with more than 80% of Hispanics not getting enough daily physical activity, also putting them at risk for heart disease.
Go Red Por Tu Corazón
But a few years ago, I met someone who would become a very close friend and who today is also a passionate volunteer for the American Heart Association. Her name is Yvonne and she is an ambassador for Go Red Por Tu Corazón (or For Your Heart).
Yvonne is Hispanic – her family is from Puerto Rico – and she is the first to admit she adores all the wonderful and not so healthy traditional food they cook. Once she became involved with the AHA as a volunteer, she began asking me for healthy recipes she could give to people as alternatives to the high fat, high sodium recipes they were currently using.
Yvonne is an incredible networker. She had been president of the local Hispanic chamber for many years and knows literally everyone in the community. Because of her connections, she is invaluable to the American Heart Association and perfect for the role of Go Red Por Tu Corazón Ambassador.
And because I have always loved to cook, we teamed up together and “took the show on the road,” with Yvonne speaking in Spanish to English as a second language classes and with me demonstrating healthy cooking to the students. This was always well received.
The Go Red Por Tu Corazón Ambassador program is continuing to thrive with Yvonne at its helm. She is excited about sharing the messages of health and the mission of the American Heart Association with other Hispanic women; recruits them to become ambassadors as well; and encourages them to make simple changes, as she has, to improve lifestyle and health. She attends every AHA event, looks for important health fair events and is always present in the community because she believes in the mission.
Recently diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic herself, Yvonne is learning to manage her diet and lifestyle and sharing the message that it CAN be done.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s important to remember that minority populations have higher rates of heart disease and stroke. For more information, including healthy recipes, log on to www.empoweredtoserve.org.