Healthy Latina
photo: iStock

Oftentimes we’re so busy running around taking care of our careers, families, and friends that we forget to take care of ourselves. Below, we show you how to stay on top of your health so you can avoid five common issues Latinas face as we grow older.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a huge concern in the Latino community. According to the American Diabetes Association, 12.8 percent of Latinos in the U.S. have diabetes, but there are ways to manage your blood sugar levels so that you don’t become a part of the statistic.

Various factors contribute to increased diabetes diagnoses, there are typically less choices for healthy and organic produce in our neighborhoods while fast food chains can be found on practically every corner. As easy as it might be to grab a Happy Meal and rush on with your day, try to cook more meals at home so you can control the amount of sugar, salt, and other processed items that make it onto your plate. When shopping for ingredients, choose whole grains like brown rice, millet, quinoa, and whole oats. You’ll also want to aim for cereals with a least three grams of fiber and less than six grams of sugar per serving. And don't forget to stock up on as much whole foods, fresh fruit and produce as you can.

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Avoid soda and other sugary drinks and cut back on sweets like cookies and cake. Those empty calories spike your blood sugar levels and increase your risk of developing diabetes down the line. Instead, drink water and munch on snacks that are filling and healthier like almonds, pumpkin seeds, baby carrots dipped in hummus, or nonfat yogurt with fresh fruits mixed in.

Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure

So much of the food advice related to diabetes above can be applied to managing heart disease and high blood pressure, two other health issues that plague our community. Managing salt intake and checking nutritional labels for sodium levels will make you a savvier consumer. We live for beans in our rice, but did you know that the canned versions typically contain loads of sodium? Cut back on that unnecessary salt by draining and rinsing the beans with water before adding them to your meal.

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Did you also know there are fats that are actually good for you? Unsaturated fats like omega-3, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats are kinder to your heart. These good fats can be found in nuts like almonds, cashews, and pistachios; seeds like flax, pumpkin, and sesame; avocado; and oils like olive, sunflower, and flaxseed. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in fish including halibut, salmon, and sardines. With the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommending we get 20 to 35 percent of our calories from fats, it’s important to know which ones to add in and which ones to reduce.

For more info on keeping your heart happy and healthy, visit heart.org.

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Obesity

Obesity doesn’t just play a factor in our body image; it can also lead to serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. But sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about how to get your weight under control. What you should know is that maintaining a healthy weight isn’t truly about following the latest fad diet or depriving yourself of the foods you like, it’s about making better lifestyle choices overall and leaning towards moderation. You don’t have to say goodbye to your favorite foods, but portion control is key. Once you teach your body that it doesn’t need as much food as it’s been condition to believe, you’ll be on a better track to your weight goal.

Aside from making smarter decisions at the dinner table – beware of drinking empty calories, binging on junk food between meals, and stuffing yourself until you need to loosen that belt – add in more moments for physical activity. Park farther than you ordinarily do and walk a couple extra blocks. Take the stairs a few flights instead of gunning for the elevator. Don’t place a daunting task before you if you’re starting from the beginning. You know your body better than anybody else and you’re more likely to stick with a new routine if you walk into it slowly. You might not be able to run a marathon tomorrow, but you’ll get closer if you start with a few blocks today. Recent studies also indicate that shorter periods of combined strength and cardio training are the most effective way to workout, so don't feel guilty if you can't slave away for hours at the gym. Check out the workout above for a quick way to get the iron and heart pumping.

To learn more about portion control as well as your nutrition and physical activity needs, visit choosemyplate.gov.

Mental Health

Stress can take a toll on your sanity so it’s important that you give your mental health as much attention as you give the rest of your body. Taking a few moments out of your day to check in with your mental state by meditating, doing deep breathing exercises, or engaging in other stress relievers can help you relax and, in turn, keep your body functioning properly. Going in for therapy is still seen as taboo by some, but you’d be the only one suffering if you turn a blind eye towards symptoms of mental illness like depression, anxiety, or mood disorders.

For more resources on mental health and conditions, visit nami.org.