Free Program Seeks to Ease Stress, Promote Heart Health in San Antonio

The way into a person’s heart is through their mind — at least that’s the case in the “A Mindful Heart: Stress Management for Individuals with Hypertension” program.

Program leader Dr. Stacy Ogbeide of the Department of Family & Community Medicine at UT Health San Antonio is taking a psychological approach to address hypertension, which is a key risk factor for many heart diseases, including cardiovascular diseases.

Dr. Ogbeide is looking for adults with high blood pressure living in San Antonio to participate in a free program that focuses on stress management intervention in a group setting, which can include education, arousal reduction, such as relaxation training, and behavioral skills training, like coping strategies.

“The group format has been recommended when conducting psychosocial interventions for heart patients because of its ability to enrich patient experiences through shared learning experiences and aid in maintaining behavioral changes,” Dr. Ogbeide wrote in a study about the program.

For more information about the “A Mindful Heart” program or to learn how to participate, contact Dr. Ogbeide at [email protected].

High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the measure of pressure pushing against the walls of your arteries, which carries the blood to other parts of the body.

While blood pressure tends to fluctuate throughout the day, if it remains higher than normal it can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease.

Nearly half the U.S. adult population is affected by high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

High blood pressure has a higher prevalence among people of color, including Latinos (39%), putting them at an increased risk for heart diseases.

Heart Disease

One of the primary heart disease types impacting Americans is cardiovascular disease.

Several disorders that affect the heart and blood vessels are listed under the cardiovascular disease umbrella, such as coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and peripheral arterial disease, according to the World Health Organization.

These diseases are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., according to the CDC

The CDC estimates that one person dies from cardiovascular disease every 33 seconds.

In 2021, 695,000 people in the U.S. died from a form of heart disease.

Many of these deaths were brought on by a heart attack, which is caused by a blockage that prevents blood flow from the heart due to a build-up of fatty deposits known as plaques.

Over 800,000 people in the U.S. suffer a heart attack every year.

Risk Factors for Heart Diseases

High blood pressure (hypertension), high blood cholesterol, and smoking are the primary risk factors for developing heart disease.

Other risk factors have to do with unhealthy lifestyle choices, which can lead to being overweight or obese and getting diabetes.

Physical inactivity can affect major heart disease risk factors, such as high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes and prediabetes, and obesity.

Many of those risk factors are associated with unhealthy eating patterns.

Eating foods with high amounts of saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, like white bread, pasta, and white rice, can lead to plaque buildup, obesity, and high blood cholesterol, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Excessive alcohol use can also make you susceptible to some of the conditions related to heart disease.

In addition, workplace hazards, such as exposure to certain chemicals, solvents, metals, or pesticides, can increase your risk for cardiovascular diseases.

Lastly, quality of sleep and stress, which causes your arteries to tighten, especially when coupled with unhealthy eating habits, can impact heart health.

Heart Disease in Latinos

Heart disease deaths are higher among people of color, especially for Latinos, which accounted for 11.9% of heart disease deaths in 2021.

That’s because Latinos have been at higher risk for developing some of the conditions that contribute to heart diseases.

In 2018 the CDC found that Latinos were 1.2 times more likely to be obese than whites.

People who are obese or overweight are also known to experience high blood pressure, high levels of blood fats, diabetes, LDL cholesterol, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.

Obesity and weight gain are often attributed to diet and physical activity – two things that can be hard to maintain for Latinos and others.

Nearly half of Latinos older than 18 reported being physically inactive, compared to 38.9% of whites in 2018, according to the National Center for Health Statistics’ National Health Interview Survey.

The same survey also found that Latinos have lower rates of some physical activity (47.8%) and regular physical activity (21.6%), compared to whites (57.5% and 25.8%, respectively).

As for diet, Latinos face many barriers when it comes to accessing healthy food.

Lack of availability is one such barrier.

Some families across the U.S. live in what are known as food deserts, which means the nearest grocery store is more than 2 miles or 15 minutes away.

An estimated 23 million U.S. families live in food deserts, and 29% of them are Latino.

There are also areas classified as food swamps, which occur when there are no grocery stores but there are tons of stores and restaurants selling fast food and junk food.

With limited options, some low-income Latino families are forced to select food that is closest to them, which isn’t always the healthiest.

“The lack of healthy food access contributes to the high rates of diabetes, obesity, and other health conditions among Latinos,” said Dr. Amelie Ramirez, director of Salud America! and its home base, the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio.

Ways to Decrease Chances for Heart Disease

You can help get your heart pumping to a healthy beat.

If you’re in San Antonio, check out the “A Mindful Heart” program by contacting Dr. Ogbeide at [email protected].

No matter where you live, allocating 30 minutes to an hour a day for physical activity can have huge benefits on heart health, according to the Mayo Clinic. So, too, can eating more healthy foods, such as vegetables and fruits, while cutting out foods that are in salt, sodium, and sugar.

Maintaining a regular sleep schedule and getting at least seven hours of sleep every night along with managing stress in a positive way can lower your risk for heart disease.

You should also monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels regularly, especially if you or someone in your family has a history of high blood pressure or heart disease.

Lastly, you can address one of the biggest threats to heart health – smoking.

Giving up smoking dramatically reduces the risk for heart disease every day, and after a year the risk drops by half of that of a smoker.

Kick the Smoking Habit with Quitxt

Turn the key and unlock a healthy heart by quitting smoking today.

You can get help quitting by enrolling in Quitxt, a phone-based bilingual service from UT Health San Antonio and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

Quitxt sends text messages straight to your phone that give you the tools, such as motivation, stress management, and nicotine replacement, needed to successfully quit smoking.

To join Quitxt in English, text “iquit” to 844-332-2058.

For Spanish, text “lodejo” to 844-332-2058.

“There’s no better time than now to stop smoking with help from Quitxt,” said Dr. Amelie Ramirez, director of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. “Quitting smoking is proven to improve your health, increase your life span, and save money.”


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