I Survived Heart Disease-MainPhoto

I Survived Heart Disease-MainPhoto

The mujeres in my life have an important role in keeping me connected with who I am: my cultura, my traditions and my heritage. My amigas in particular share my joys, my pains and they “get me.” We share the common bond that is so unique to us as Latinas. We are centered around our familias and the values that make us strong and proud of who we are and how far we’ve come. No matter what, we are there for each other—in good times and in bad.

Read Related: I Want to Live Heart-Healthy to See My Children Grow Up!

Three years ago, I went by myself to what seemed to be a routine—and very long overdue—appointment with a cardiologist to check in on a heart murmur I’ve had for years. Actually, it had been 13 years since I had seen a heart specialist, and I finally decided it was time to go. The news from the cardiologist was not what I expected: my problem had become dangerous and I needed open heart surgery. I was terrified and devastated. I immediately texted one of my mejores amigas to tell her, with my eyes filled with tears, that I was as scared as I’d ever been my entire life.

“You are going to be OK,” she texted back. “You are going to get through this and we are going to help you.” In the following weeks, I had to prepare for major surgery in which they cut my chest open, stopped my heart completely and replaced the parts that didn’t work anymore. It was a little like hitting the “pause” button on my life while they did the repairs. Not only was my mejor amiga there to help me, but all of the wonderful mujeres in my life were a source of strength and inspiration to carry on. Even today, three years after my open heart surgery, I don’t know what I would do without them.

Amigas, hermanas, abuelas, tías, madres y comadres—we are all in this together! We share our lives, our problems, our worries. We talk about our children, their future, our partners and the challenges we face every day. But often we forget to talk about the most important thing: our health. As I look back, I realize I often talk about health in relation to what has happened and not so much about what will happen. I then ask myself, “Do we have enough conversations where we actually focus on what we will do to change? How will we commit and hold each other accountable to doing the things that will allow us to have a long, healthy life?”

As Latinas we have a great desire to care for our loved ones, our familias, and give them everything we can possibly give to make sure they are well and happy. But in our focus to care for our seres queridos, how much time do we make to take care of ourselves? Do we feel selfish if we take some time to sleep enough hours, exercise—so we can live a healthier life? Do we ask anyone for help? Or do we wait until it’s too late? Many Latinas end up having this conversation after “it” has happened.

Heart disease does not discriminate: It’s the No. 1 killer of women, claiming the lives of more women than all forms of cancer combined. Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women. Only one in three Hispanic women is aware that heart disease is their No. 1 killer.

Today, I’m proud to say: ¡Yo soy una sobreviviente! As a survivor, I raise my voice about our silent killer and I Go Red For Women.

Go Red by speaking RED and sharing information about heart disease prevalence, symptoms and prevention with your amigas y familia. Keep the mujeres in your life informed about how they can make heart-healthy lifestyle choices and reduce their risk for heart disease.

Become part of the Go Red For Women movement by wearing red during American Heart Month in February. Show the world you are part of a movement that raises awareness about women’s No. 1 killer. To learn more about the movement, visit GoRedForWomen.org or GoRedCorazon.org.

To find items to Go Red, visit Shop Heart.