Love Your Heart

By Neel Saxena, Executive Director

Photos from various sources

I can still remember a friend’s scratchy voice over the phone on the night our friend, our brother Joe Montano passed away and a familiar feeling of loss. It was familiar because I had already lost my father-in-law and another friend to heart disease. Growing up, most of the adults I knew who passed because of heart disease or had heart issues & complications, I used to think that is just part of my community.  As more information became available to me, I learned that this doesn’t have to part of our community. Guess what, February is American Heart Month and today is Valentine’s Day – so I thought I’d write about our Asian American Heart.

What is an Asian American Heart? – you might be asking – Are they different than other hearts? 

While I am not a medical resident like Dr. Devon Pravesh, #mediarepresentationmatters, I do know some Asian American ethnic groups from Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka have higher risks of heart disease than the general population.

Disparities in health isn’t limited to heart disease despite the continued Asian American monolith narrative. Filipinx and Asian Indians are at greater risk of  type 2 diabetes; Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese are more likely to develop chronic hepatitis B, and Hmong women, especially those over the age of 40 years, were more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer compared to other groups

Some of the social determinants for health inequities for Asian Americans include: access to care, education, income, and language. For example, Asian Americans tend to visit the doctor less than the White population. During community conversations with youth, parents, and seniors, access to health care was a top issue. Insurance coverage for Asian Americans is also lower than the white population and about 8% are uninsured.

So back to the heart, why are Filipinx and Asian Indians are a greater risk to heart disease than other communities? The common reasons are varied, here are a couple examples:

Diet: Filipinx food is influenced by a long line of colonization which has led to a variety of ingredients that contains a lot of salt which impacts blood pressure. For Asian Indians, it’s linked to a diet rich in sugar, refined grains, and fatty foods.

Screening: Filipinx and South Asians experience metabolic syndrome at lower BMI levels, yet medical professionals do not screen aggressively these patients often overlooking signs.

Asian American health professionals are taking notice with new guidelines looking at screenings by ethnicity and research like Cardiovascular Risk in the Filipino Community and the Stanford South Asian Translational Heart Initiative are working to change the narrative around the health outcomes for these populations.

Here are 4 ways to love our heart:

Culturally & Linguistically Resources

Since today is also #throwbackthursday I thought I’d share the last project I did before I left The Mayor’s Office on Asian Pacific Islander Affairs and came back home to AALEAD. Healthy Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders in DC (HAAPIDC) was an initiative I launched with the aim at improving the quality of life of DC’s AAPIs by increasing the availability of culturally & linguistically accessible information on healthy living.

Here were the first 2 sets of multilingual info graphics I created:

We as #nonprofit community spend a great deal of justified time and effort on taking care of the emotional parts of our hearts. After my father-in-law passed away, I committed myself to also take care of the physical parts of my health. Before I started, I went to my Filipinx doctor who looked at me funny when I visited and told her that “they say to consult your doctor before starting any type of exercise routine.” She then recommended me download some apps.

So here I am …   I committed to healthy eating and prioritizing my physical health as much as I do for other important parts of my life!

On this Valentine’s Day, love your heart and begin or continue to care emotionally and physically. Let’s take notice of the power of our beats!

I couldn’t leave this blog post without one of my favorite songs I would tape from my old clock radio

Email Newsletters with VerticalResponse