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Take Charge of Your Health Now
By Myrna Gutierrez


Latinas are living longer, but not necessarily healthier lives. Health experts point to exercise and nutrition as prescriptions for Latinas to turn the tide on disease.

“Eighty-one percent of Latinas have at least one of the major cardiovascular factors such as high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, smoking habits and high blood pressure,” says Dr. Martha L. Daviglus, director of the Institute for Minority Health Research at University of Illinois at Chicago. “Latinas are very powerful. They go more often to see doctors, compared to Latino men,” adds Dr. Daviglus. “They can control how the rest of their family eats and exercises. They can help their families start thinking about prevention.”

Jane Delgado, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, believes there is a lot Latinas can do to bypass genetic indicators and manage diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. “Taking charge means making sure that you get informed and do what you’re supposed to do as much as you can.”

Exercise does wonders,” says Yarixa Ferrao, A.K.A. Coach Yari, a fitness expert and an official trainer for the MTV series, I Used to Be Fat. “It can both prevent and reverse diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease.” A new study published in Diabetologia, reports that multiple, brief, snack-sized portions of exercise may control blood sugar better than a single, continuous workout.  “It’s important to get moving, starting by walking around the block for five to ten minutes,” assures Yari. “Eventually, increasing intensity and getting the heart and lung capacity to expand gives better results.”

Go Green

A tropical beat with a dash of dance spice up healthy meals in Giselle Achecar’s kitchen on the Eco-Rico YouTube TV show. Her recipes prove that you can have delectable meals that are rich in nutrients, and even have Caribbean flavors.  Many of Achecar’s recipe creations include power foods that help manage blood sugar, aid in digestion, lower cholesterol and hypertension. Her dried berry oatmeal contains high soluble fiber which reduces the absorption of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Other power foods she recommends are barley, beans, leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, berries, olive oil and papaya. For Achecar, not all “healthy” foods are created equally if they are not organic. “Toxicity in food lodges into tissues,” she says. “After a lifetime, these toxins build up in your tissues and create disease.” Coach Yari agrees. “If you eat healthy salads but they have pesticides and herbicides, it will lower your immune system. With organic foods, you have more nutrient dense foods which will satisfy your hunger.”

Read Your Labels and Understand What You Are Eating

Achecar is particularly careful with bleached flour and suggests eating whole or multiple wheat for breads, pasta and desserts. She points to studies exposing that bleached white flour contains a diabetes causing contaminant called alloxan. Used by researchers to induce diabetes in lab animals, it destroys beta cells in the pancreas. “Small steps lead to big leaps,” says Achecar. “Do just one thing. Instead of grabbing a regular milk chocolate bar, aim for dark chocolate that’s organic made from at least seventy percent cacao.” Coach Yari advises lowering carbohydrate intake because it raises insulin levels which leave no room for fat loss. “Working out on an empty stomach increases the body’s ability to burn more fat because it forces stored fat and glucose to be broken down for energy,” she adds. “After a workout, it’s best to wait thirty to sixty minutes before eating.”

Try Tech Support

Many apps are promising to make getting healthy easier. The market for mobile health monitoring and diagnostics was worth $650 million in 2012, according to a report from Transparency Market Research.  Tech support for healthier living runs the gamut from smartphone-connected cardiac monitors, glucose monitors, blood pressure monitors, to wearable technology and exercise and nutrition apps. “Technology can help us up to a point,” cautions Delgado. “High tech part has to meet high touch part. It’s important to get help from a health care provider to help you take the next step.”

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