Hello Everyone and Season’s Greetings!
This holiday season, the Voices for Healthy Kids Texas team would like to talk about social determinants of health. “Well, what’s that?” you might ask. Simple! It’s the long way of saying that where we live, learn, work, and play can affect our health. That’s why one of our goals at the AHA is to close the gap in health among people with different cultural backgrounds by providing people with the tools they need to live longer and healthier lives.
Earlier this week, our Chief Medical Officer for Prevention, Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, wrote a great article about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and healthy eating for improving heart health, especially among Hispanics.
According to the study highlighted in his article below, many Hispanics are being treated for high cholesterol but not nearly enough. One of the best tools for fighting heart disease is awareness, so, like Dr. Sanchez says, check your “cardiovascular health” score by checking out mylifecheck.org today! Once that’s done, head on over to heart.org/HealthyLiving for tips and advice on how to improve and/or maintain ideal cardiovascular health. There’s even a great guide on how to stay healthy during the holidays!
With holiday treats and temptations all around, we’re here to help you make the healthy choice the easy choice wherever you live, learn, work, and play. Let’s get started!
The Glass Is Half Full for Hispanics and Cholesterol
by Dr. Eduardo Sanchez
The American Heart Association (AHA) tagline answers the question, "Why should I care about my health?" The answer? Life is why.
Like many, if not all others, Latinos love life and living a good life. A good life is made more possible with good health and the AHA has defined ideal cardiovascular health, which increases the likelihood, the chance, of a good life based on Life's Simple 7.
The path to ideal cardiovascular health includes improving on Life's Simple 7. You can determine your "cardiovascular health" score by going to mylifecheck.org and answering a few questions. One component of the score is based on cholesterol level.
A study published this summer suggests that, regarding Hispanics and cholesterol, the glass is half full. Half of Hispanics in the study were unaware that they had high cholesterol. Of those who were aware, fewer than one out of three were receiving treatment.
The take-home message? Hispanics are under treated for high cholesterol. In that study of 16,415 U.S. Hispanic/Latino adults, investigators found that only one out of 10 of the study population were receiving cholesterol-lowering statin medications even though, as many as one in three to one in two were eligible for statin treatment.
Knowing about and addressing cholesterol is very important to achieve ideal cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of future heart attacks or strokes. Cholesterol is a major controllable risk factor for heart disease, and high cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol, often called "bad," cholesterol, can contribute to narrowing, stiffening, and blocking blood flow through the arteries that carry blood to the heart and to the brain.
The most current AHA guidelines for managing blood cholesterol recommend that doctors use an approach that is based on determining a patient's risk for heart disease and stroke. If the risk is high -- based on a "risk calculator" developed by AHA -- then use of medications, usually statin drugs that lower cholesterol, will be part of the management plan.
Another very important part of the plan is lifestyle modification: eating a heart healthy diet; regular exercise or physical activity; not smoking; and getting to and maintaining a healthy weight -- four of Life's Simple 7.
What a person eats and portion sizes may contribute to high cholesterol and a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes. Eating more fruits and vegetables -- perhaps from our countries of origin or background -- in place of fatty, calorie dense foods is one approach to improve the heart healthfulness of our diets.
Finding ways to use healthy cultural practices and to address factors like access to and affordability of healthy food, might also make it possible for more families to prepare healthy, affordable, home-cooked meals.
Regular physical activity must also be part of a plan to improve heart health. Only 43 percent of Hispanics are getting the recommended amount of weekly physical activity - 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week.
A study published this year in the AHA's journal Circulation found that Hispanics' lower levels of physical activity and higher levels of sedentary lifestyles increases the chances of having more heart disease and diabetes. The study included more than 12,000 U.S. adults with Mexican, South American, Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican or Central American backgrounds.
Healthy weight is another important aspect of a plan to improve health and reduce the chance of heart attack or stroke. Among the participants of the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, 40 percent were obese.
The highlighted research seems to point to untreated cholesterol in Hispanics as a factor for poor heart health, but the real take home message is that healthy eating, regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight are every day ways that Latinos and all Americans can improve cardiovascular health and reduce the likelihood of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
Life's Simple 7 is a good starting place to understand heart health and to start living healthy, but a conversation with your personal doctor is also very important to assess the risk and the need to be on medication to lower cholesterol.
The bottom line is that good health is part of a good life -- una vida Buena. Ideal cardiovascular health is important for good health.
Fill your glass with the elixir of life and a toast (un brindis) -- Life is why!
Dr. Eduardo Sanchez is chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association