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Cardiovascular Health

At the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), we are committed to keeping Hispanic older adults and their families free from heart and vascular disease. We foster this commitment by promoting healthy lifestyles including proper nutrition, daily exercise, avoidance of smoking, consumption of alcohol in moderation and pursuit of a stress free lifestyle.
Additionally, we encourage regular visits with a primary care provider to ensure that diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels are detected and treated early in order to avoid irreversible damage to the heart, brain, kidneys and other organs.




Project Period: 06/01/2013–05/31/2019
Contact: Dr. Larissa Avilés-Santa

The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) is a multi-center epidemiologic study in Hispanic/Latino populations designed to describe the prevalence of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease and other select chronic diseases, their protective or harmful factors, and changes in health over time, including incidence of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease events, exacerbation of pulmonary disease and all-cause mortality. In addition, the role of sociocultural factors (including acculturation) on Hispanic/Latino health is of interest… Click here for more information.


There are many things you can do to keep your heart healthy, including:

  • Maintain a healthy diet low in salt, fat, and cholesterol
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Keep medical conditions (hypertension, diabetes, etc.)
    under control with regular visits to a primary care provider

Learn more about lifestyle management to maintain cardiovascular health in the 2013 AHA/ACC Guidelines for Lifestyle Management to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk.
Learn more about heart disease facts, your risk and what you can do about it, by viewing the

Heathline heart-disease-infographic


The risk of cardiovascular disease increases with age, given that aging is associated with a progressive decline in life sustaining physiological processes and degenerative changes in the heart, arteries and various organs. It is even more important for older adults to seek regular medical attention and maintain healthy lifestyles.


  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Heart valve problems
    • Arrhythmia (irregular heart beat)
    • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
    • Atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries)

For more detailed information on aging and cardiovascular disease:

North, B. & Sinclair, D. The Intersection Between Aging and Cardiovascular Disease. (2012). Circulation Research. 110(8): 1097–1108.


There has been a decline in the number of preventable deaths associated with cardiovascular disease for people over age 65 in the past decade. However, rates have remained unchanged among those under age 65.

  • One in three deaths in the U.S. are caused by heart disease and stroke.
  • At least 200,000 deaths from heart disease and stroke could have prevented though healthy life styles, improved access to care and healthy communities.
  • For Hispanics, heart disease is the cause of 20% of deaths annually.

In their quest to stay healthy, Latinos face multiple economic, acculturation, social and environmental conditions and barriers that influence their health, including cardiovascular health. Some of these include:

Learn more about preventing and treating cardiovascular disease by reading the new 2013 AHA/ACC guidelines or 2014 Evidence-Based Guideline for the Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults.


There are factors that can increase the risk of heart disease, including medical conditions, lifestyle choices, and genetic predispositions.

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Tobacco use
  • Diet high in saturated fats and salts
  • Physical inactivity
  • Alcohol in excess
  • Stress
  • Family history


Stroke, also known as brain attacks, are a result from diseases affecting the arteries in the brain or those leading to it.

There are two types of stroke:
  1. When a blood vessel in the brain is
    blocked by a clot (ischemic stroke),
    which represent 87% of all strokes
  2. When a there is a rupture (hemorrhagic
    stroke) in a blood vessel in, or leading
    to, the brain

In either case, blood, which carries oxygen and nutrients, cannot reach parts of the brain causing brain cells to become damaged and die. As a result, the person may develop various deficits leading to disabilities or death depending on depending how soon the stroke victim is medically treated and the extensiveness of the damage.

Strokes can occur at any age; however, the risk of having one increases with age. In fact, one in six adults ages 55 and over are at risk of having a stroke. Overall, 795,000 people in the U.S. suffer a stroke each year, resulting in 130,000 deaths.

  • 61% of all strokes occur in women.
  • More women than men die from stroke.
  • Women suffer greater disability after stroke.
  • Strokes kill more than twice as many women as breast cancer.
  • Hispanic women are less aware of stroke symptoms than Caucasian women and less likely to call 9-1-1 when faced with signs and symptoms of stroke.
  • U.S.-born Hispanics have higher incidence of strokes than non-Hispanic whites
  • May face increased risk for all types of stroke at younger ages than non-Hispanic whites
  • May face language barriers, lack of health insurance and other factors that delay care
  • Less likely to call 9-1-1 when afflicted by, or witness, a stroke
Warning Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the
    face, arm or leg
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking
    or understanding others
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both
  • Sudden dizziness, trouble walking or
    loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no
    known cause

It is important to know that if these signs and symptoms go away after a few minutes, that they may be a sign that a person has suffered a “mini stroke,” also known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA may not cause permanent damage, but it can be a warning sign of an impending full-blown stroke, so it should be treated with same urgency as a stroke.

In all cases, when a stroke is suspected, it is important to call 9-1-1 immediately. Every minute counts!

Knowing the Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke can save lives!

What to do when a stroke occurs:

Call 9-1-1 immediately!




  • Join the Million Hearts Campaign
  • Obtain CPR certification — you may save a life.
  • Learn how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), as they are in stadiums, airports and many public places and could save a life.
  • Learn the signs/symptoms of a heart attack and stroke and call 9-1-1 if you witness one.
  • Celebrate Stroke Awareness Month (May) by increasing your knowledge, practicing a heart healthy lifestyle and spreading this knowledge among your friends, family and community.
  • Consider a career in health. As the population ages, there is a greater need for health care providers and, in particular for Spanish speaking, bilingual/bicultural health care providers.