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Minority Women's Health: Latinas and Heart Disease

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Heart disease is the number one killer of American women. Heart disease is a group of diseases of the heart and the blood vessel system in the heart. Coronary artery disease, the most common type, affects the blood vessels of the heart. It can cause angina (an-JEYE-nuh) or a heart attack.

Angina is a pain in the chest that happens when the heart does not get enough blood. It may feel like a pressing or squeezing pain, often in the chest, but sometimes in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. Having angina means you're more likely to have a heart attack. A heart attack happens when a clot mostly or completely blocks blood flow to the heart muscle.

Signs of a heart attack:

- Chest discomfort — pressure, squeezing, or pain

- Shortness of breath

- Discomfort in the upper body — arms, shoulder, neck, back

- Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, lightheadedness, sweating

Women can also have less common symptoms, including:

- Unusual tiredness

- Trouble sleeping

- Problems breathing

- Indigestion (upset stomach)

- Anxiety (feeling uneasy or worried)

Learn more about the signs of a heart attack from womenshealth.gov.If you think you are having a heart attack, you must act quickly to prevent disability or death. Wait no more than a few minutes — five at most — before calling 911.

Like all women, Latinas are at risk of heart disease. Together with stroke, heart disease accounts for a third of all deaths among Latinas. Latinas have high rates of diabetes, overweight, and obesity, which are factors that increase heart disease risk.

What's more, compared to non-Hispanic white and black women, Latinas are less likely to be physically active, which also raises heart disease risk.

You have the power to fight heart disease! Read on for some tips to keep your heart healthy.

- Keep a healthy weight.

- Make physical activity a habit. Health benefits are gained by doing the following each week:

-- 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity


-- 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity


-- A combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity

-- Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days of the week

Eat heart-healthy foods. Eat whole-grain foods, vegetables, and fruit. Choose lean meats and low-fat cheese and dairy products. Limit foods that have lots of saturated fat, like butter, whole milk, baked goods, ice cream, fatty meats, and cheese.

Know your numbers. Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides) and blood glucose (sugar). Follow your doctor's orders to keep your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels under control.

Don't smoke. If you smoke, try to quit. For help along the way, check out our Quitting Smoking section.

More resources on minority women's health

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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