In commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’d like to introduce you to Olivia Rodriguez and Leticia Madrigal, two incredible women who are pillars of their respective communities.
Olivia, WomenHeart Champion and native of Santa Barbara, Calif., knows the importance of heart health—a point she wants to express to Hispanic women. “Latinas don’t know the symptoms of heart disease,” says Rodriguez. In fact, nearly 66 percent of Latinas are unaware heart disease is one of their greatest health risks. Olivia happened to be part of that group. “I didn’t know I was having a heart attack. It felt like I had an elephant on my chest,” she recalled. After initially experiencing high blood pressure and fatigue—common heart disease risk factors—Olivia believed the symptoms to be simply stress-related. Unfortunately, she suffered a heart attack in 2013. Olivia has a family history of heart disease—her grandmother, who passed away at age 72, suffered from PAD (peripheral artery disease), while her mother had a heart attack at age 68.
But through this trying experience, Olivia was invigorated by a lifestyle change, which included exercise, a heart healthy diet, and a tremendous support system. In 2015, she successfully completed the S&L training and became a WomenHeart Champion, a memory she holds dear. “My S&L experience was excellent. It is a huge challenge, but it’s good to be a voice out there. If you can change just one woman’s life, it’s worth it.” Today, Olivia feels really good and enjoys being an active voice in the fight against heart disease. She is currently a co-coordinator for WomenHeart of Santa Barbara, Calif.
Leticia is the true definition of a ‘heart disease conqueror.’ As a WomenHeart Champion, Leticia, a native of Chicago, wants Hispanic women living with or at risk for heart disease to be aware of the symptoms and adapt lifestyle changes. She urges women to know their risk factors and see a doctor, especially if they have risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family history. “My mother has type 2 diabetes and lives with a pacemaker. My father passed away from a massive heart attack after suffering heat stroke, so I scheduled an appointment to make sure my heart was healthy,” says Leticia. This doctor’s visit turned out to be crucial as Leticia was diagnosed with heart valve disease. “My heart diagnosis prompted me to pay more attention to my risk factors.”
She became a WomenHeart Champion in 2014 after being introduced to WomenHeart by a fellow support network coordinator. This connection with WomenHeart has been life-changing and provides a platform for her to educate women about heart health. “I have participated in so many amazing and extra special moments across the United States thanks to WomenHeart.”