Healthy Heart Habits

This Valentine’s Day weekend, do something special for those close to your heart: take care of it!

Your heart, that is.

Heart disease (heart attacks, strokes, etc.) is the #1 killer of women in the United States.

Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity, and smoking. Like many of you, I've witnessed this first hand. Both my abuela and madre have suffered from high blood pressure for decades.

Latinas are even more at risk than their non-Hispanic white and African American counterparts. According to a 2011 Journal of Women’s Health study, 57 percent of Latina women had three or more risk factors for having a heart attack, compared with 40 percent of African American women and 32 percent of white women.

¿Por qué?

Less access to health care means Hispanic women are not receiving preventive services such as blood pressure, cholesterol screening, and obesity counseling.

But don’t get too down just yet.

You have the power to prevent and curb risk factors!

That’s right, without even stepping foot into a doctor’s office, you can change your everyday habits to protect your corazón.  A little effort goes a long way: by controlling the risk factors, you can reduce the chance of a heart attack by 80%.

Whew! Just how can I do that?

Four things you can doto reduce your risk of heart disease:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight. (How? See tips 2 and 3)
  1. Make physical activity a habit. Incorporate 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (Need suggestions? Read my articles on running or dance-based fitnessand muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week (Check out my CrossFit post).
  2. Limit saturated fats in favor of heart-healthy foods such as whole-grains, vegetables, and fruit. I suggest green smoothies!
  3. Eliminate stress: How? Try a change in your physical environment which is what finally lowered my mother's blood pressure. A new work routine plus supportive friendships reversed a condition that years of medication could not. Another suggestion: yoga.


Don’t do it all on your own. Seek professional medical attention by scheduling regular checkups to monitor cholesterol and blood pressure. Most important, ALWAYS call 9-1-1 at any symptoms of a heart attack: shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the chest or upper abdomen, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.

The best Valentine's Day gift you can give this year?  Make heart-healthy choices and encourage your loved ones to do the same.

The Wise Latina Club's Natalie Wagner Fierro

A teacher by day, The Wise Latina Club’s Natalie Wagner Fierro is the co-founder of the Institute for Student Health. She equally loves food (cooking or dining in Washington’s restaurants) and burning calories by distance running, practicing yoga, and archery. Click here to read more about and connect with Natalie.

How will you protect your heart?