By Ada M. Alvarez
Ada M. Alvarez is a Board Member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and has a Masters in Science in Investigative Mass Communications from Florida International University. She is 23-years-old and was born in Puerto Rico where she got a BA in Journalism and a minor in Gender Studies.
Her journalism work and multimedia experience has targeted health, environment and politics. She currently works for a domestic violence shelter for teen dating violence prevention in Miami, as well as, working as a freelance journalist.
Alvarez has written two books, Lo que no dije (2006) and Mudanza Constante (2008). The first book made her Puerto Rico's youngest novelist and was adopted as an international teen dating violence prevention campaign accompanied with its own bilingual website Lo que no dije.
The month of February has a certain reputation. Because of it, wherever we look this month are the colors of red and white accompanied by images of Cupid poised to shoot his arrow of love -- and everywhere it seems like hearts are in the air.
There's no disputing the fact that February is the month of the heart, but depending on whom you ask it can mean something different. For example, the stores use the heart shape to remind shoppers to buy their special loved ones Valentine cards. The American Heart Association uses the heart shape to emphasize and renew awareness of cardiovascular health. One campaign of the American Heart Association, Go Red, raises this awareness to a new level by making sure everyone understands that the #1 killer of women in the United States has everything to do with the heart.
In the National Go Red for Women campaign, officially celebrated this month on February 5, 2010, people are asked to dress in red to create awareness of women's cardiovascular health. Based on statistics, 1 out of 3 women have some type of heart disease. Fifty-two percent of women die due to heart failure.
Think about this: In 2006 in the United States, heart problems claimed 432,709 women's lives, more than a combination of all types of cancer which killed 269,819 women. But even though cardiovascular problems attack women the most, it's an issue that affects everyone in every single possible way.
Usually, people relate poor heart health with the elderly. After all, it is the #1 killer for people 75 and older. Yet, more than 37,000 babies are born each year with congenital heart defects. More than 1.3 million children have serious problems that could lead to surgery. To make it worse, many of these illnesses are not covered by health care providers because they are considered "pre-existing conditions." In fact, this has a major impact on the economy and healthcare.
A national study done by Harvard researchers, that was published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2007, found that almost 62% of all bankruptcy cases are due to medical bills. In 1981, only 8% of families filed bankruptcy because of serious medical problems, but today people not only end up sick but living in debt.
The number of un- and underinsured Americans has grown steadily because the cost of healthcare has increased and Congress has tightened bankruptcy laws. Basically, every 30 seconds someone in the United States files bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem.
The Census revealed in 2005 that more than 40 million people were uninsured. The 45.8 million uninsured are more likely to be poor and low-income rather than higher income. However, some of the people that file for bankruptcy are doing it because their insurance didn't cover all their medical costs.
Hispanics now represent 14% of the population, but are more than 35% of the total of the uninsured. The higher uninsured rate for Hispanics is not associated with higher poverty levels like other groups. Rather, research has shown that Hispanics are more likely to be employed in jobs that do not offer health insurance, such as construction and agriculture (but when offered health insurance they accept at the same rates as whites and blacks).
But when it comes to sickness, the heart takes a lead role. For a healthy heart, many cardiologists recommend eating a balanced diet, low on sodium; having periodical check-ups for high blood pressure, which increases stroke possibilities; participate in cardio-respiratory exercises like walking for 30 minutes or aerobics, and doing activities that decrease stress levels, which impact the heart.
It's important for everyone to take care of their heart and learn the facts on how to lead a healthy life and set a healthy example for their loved ones, because the heart shouldn't be celebrated for only one month -- it is not only a shape, it's the beat of life.
To think otherwise is heartbreaking!