WomenHeart Champion Mildred C. Rodriguez was honored recently by Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute at Baptist Hospital for leading the way in raising awareness among Hispanic-American women of their high risk for heart disease and initiating Spanish language education and support services.
“Her pioneering work through WomenHeart to raise awareness about the devastating toll of heart disease on Hispanic- American women goes hand in hand with our commitment to educate our community on heart health and bring the latest information on diagnoses and treatments to our patients,” said Carol Mascioli, chief operating officer of Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute.
WomenHeart is the only national organization providing education and support to women living with heart disease — the leading cause of death in women. Rodriguez is a member of the national corps of WomenHeart Champions, a group of heart disease survivors trained at the WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium at the Mayo Clinic to be volunteer community educators and support network coordinators.
Locally, Rodriguez leads a free monthly support group that meets at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute at Baptist Hospital. Through her work with WomenHeart, she emerged as a national voice for the Hispanic-American community. Today, nearly 70 percent of Hispanic- American women have at least one risk factor for heart disease, but only 37 percent know heart disease is their leading health threat.
In February, Rodgriquez was honored at the 11th annual Woman’s Day Red Dress Awards in New York City.
“The Red Dress Award is a tremendous personal honor and a fantastic opportunity to raise national awareness about the need for prevention, early and accurate diagnosis, and proper treatment of heart disease in Hispanic- American women,” Rodriguez said.
“My work as a WomenHeart Champion and support network coordinator has allowed me the incredible opportunity to let all Hispanic-American women know that heart disease is very real and that they can start taking charge of their heart health today.”
Mildred Rodriguez’s Story
“In 1998, I was told I needed open-heart surgery after I suffered a heart attack. I was overweight and a smoker, and although my mother had died from heart-related complications, I didn’t know that I was heading for the same outcome. I was ignorant about heart disease, and I am not alone. An overwhelming 70 percent of Hispanic-American women have at least one risk factor for heart disease, yet surveys indicate that Hispanic women are less aware of their risk factors for heart disease than are Caucasian women.”
Convinced that she could have avoided her heart attack if she had been educated about heart disease, Rodriguez set out to tell Hispanic- American women what she wished she had been told: warning signs and risk factors of heart disease and steps to live a heart-healthy life.
“In 2010, I started the first WomenHeart Support Network for Spanish-speaking women living with heart disease in Miami. I am convinced that had I found a WomenHeart Support Network right after my open-heart surgery, my recovery would have been much faster and much easier,” she said.
Rodriguez and her support network for Spanish-speaking women spread the word by setting up displays at health fairs throughout the Miami area and distributing Spanish-language literature.
Always active, Rodriguez has served as the national Hispanic-American patient voice for the Bayer Aspirin “I Am ProHeart” campaign. She also was the national spokeswoman for the Spanish-language version of “Make the Call. Don’t Miss a Beat,” a national public service campaign of the U.S. Department o Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health.
She continues to serve as a public speaker and community educator at the local, regional and national levels.