February is American Heart Month

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Latino Perspectives Magazine is proud to focus on the lifesaving mission of the American Heart Association during American Heart Month in February. The following article highlights an exceptional volunteer who has helped advance local programs educating Latinos about heart disease and stroke risk, and detail the ways you can take action to improve your own heart health.

Dr. Adriana Perez puts research into action saving lives

AdrianaAdriana Perez, Ph.D., ANP-BC, is a scholar who puts her research into action saving lives. As a dedicated volunteer for the American Heart Association (AHA) for many years, Dr. Perez applies her culturally relevant research in developing wellness intervention programs among the Latino population. She is Assistant Professor and Southwest Borderlands Scholar at Arizona State University, College of Nursing and Health Innovation and co-director of the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence. In addition, as a Health and Aging Policy Fellow, Dr. Perez works to promote policies that improve the overall health of our expanding aging population. 

She urges Latinas to connect with Go Red por tu Corazón, part of the national Go Red for Women movement empowering women to take charge of their heart health. Go Red marks its tenth anniversary this year, celebrating its effectiveness in raising women’s awareness of their number-one health threat.

“Women who Go Red are more likely to make healthy choices,” Dr. Perez notes, “and we want to make sure Latinas are included.” The bilingual Go Red por tu Corazón movement is included in outreach and awareness programs of the AHA’s Greater Phoenix Division. The association also has a wide range of on-line resources for living a healthy lifestyle.

“Heart disease is the number one killer of Latinas,” Dr. Perez explains. “It is often silent, hidden and misunderstood. Despite the heightened risk, most Latinas are still unaware of the threat to themselves and their families. Small changes can make a big difference. Go Red por tu Corazón promotes a heart-healthy lifestyle through healthy eating and physical activity, building on strong ties to family and cultural traditions.” 

Dr. Perez explains: “Through community-based research, I know that Latinos want to learn about health in a positive way. They do not want to be alarmed by potential health threats, but rather want to learn about all they can do to keep themselves and their families healthy to enjoy life. For the most part, Latinos want to continue to enjoy cultural traditions, so, we share ways that physical activity can be part of celebrations and how favorite foods can still be included in moderation.”

While her research and clinical practice have focused on older adults, she understands the importance of connecting generations for heart health, especially among Latinos. That was reflected in recent,Simple Cooking with Heart” classes that Dr. Perez helped implement at the Halle Heart Children’s Museum. “These classes empowered families to make healthy lifestyle choices that can transform their lives,” she notes. “It was great to see grandparents, parents and children involved in preparing a heart-healthy and delicious meal.”

Dr. Perez is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses and helped launch the local Check for Life program, a collaboration in which volunteer nurses train stylists at barbershops and salons that cater to a Latino clientele to perform blood pressure screenings during appointments. The project has been underway for several years and has reached thousands of local residents.

“We discovered high blood pressure in countless clients,” she notes. “And, thanks to this program, they now have access to educational information about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity.”

Dedication to AHA community programs and a unique research focus provide Dr. Perez with important insights for her role as a member of the Health Equity Task Force for the AHA’s Western States Affiliate. The Task Force was formed in 2011 to address the health needs of diverse communities the affiliate serves across ten states. The primary focus is raising awareness about high blood pressure, obesity and healthy eating/living – essential to improving personal health and building healthier communities. 

Dr. Perez has been doing that here in Phoenix for many years.

Live healthy with My Life Check

Healthy-familyNo matter where you stand on the road to good health, it’s never too late to make better choices. All you need is a goal, a plan and the desire to live better. That’s why the American Heart Association created My Life Check and Life’s Simple Seven

No one achieves heart health by accident. Increase the odds by practicing seven steps to live a heart-healthy life.

  • Get active
  • Control cholesterol
  • Eat better
  • Manage blood pressure
  • Lose weight
  • Reduce blood sugar
  • Stop smoking

Our science and research volunteers have developed a simple tool so you know where you stand. Go on-line to to find out where you stand with the Life’s Simple Seven goals. Take the quick My Life Check assessment and, in a few minutes, you will know how you’re doing with each goal. You will also get your own personal heart score and life plan. The results will show where you stand on the seven recommended areas of focus and will create an action plan that is customized to your lifestyle and health outlook. Share the bilingual My Life Check web link with family and friends to point them in the direction of good health.

The most important step in the process is promising yourself to start making positive changes for a long, healthy future.

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