Honoring Hispanic Roots

Hispanic Heritage Month is all about honoring the historical roots of many Americans and significant periods of history, but it is also an opportunity to combine healthy habits with the best of our culture.

To celebrate, choose your favorite music and associated dance from your cultural heritage, grab your partner and dance every day.

One of the American Heart Association's seven steps toward ideal cardiovascular health, known as Life's Simple Seven, is regular physical activity.

The AHA recommends 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or 150 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly, which equates to walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week, at a three-to-four miles per hour pace. That works out to one mile in 15 to 20 minutes.

While walking is in line with the U.S. Surgeon General's call to "step it up," there are other forms of health-promoting physical activity. An important one for Hispanics/Latinos is dancing.

¡Vamos a bailar! - Let's dance!

Dancing is an excellent way to get in our minutes per week of physical activity. There are a number of popular Hispanic/Latino musical styles with equally popular, vigorous dances associated with them -- Mexican polkas, cumbia, salsa, merengue and tango. All are enjoyed in many parts of the United States and throughout countries in Latin America.

Cumbia and Tango are from South America. Cumbia is a musical style and dance with origins from Colombia, although it has been adapted in other countries. Tango originates from Argentina and Uruguay, but has aficionados in other places as well.

Salsa and merengue have Caribbean roots. While salsa is said to have originated among Nuyoricans (Puerto Ricans in New York City), there is also salsa composed, performed and danced in countries such as Puerto Rico, Cuba and Venezuela. Merengue is fast-paced music genre and dance from the Dominican Republic.

The North American continent is where Mexican polkas emerged. Mexican polkas are associated with Northern Mexico and South Texas-originated norteña music. It comes from the comingling of German and Eastern European settlers and Mexicans in the mid-19th century and has evolved to other styles of music and dance, including Tejano music.

For many Hispanics, part of our cultural identity is connected to the music we heard in our family homes and the dances our families danced. Dancing is a way to be physically active and to be socially and culturally connected.

As mentioned, regular physical activity is one of the heart healthy behaviors that contribute to ideal cardiovascular health which can help prevent high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke and even diabetes.

Vamos a bailar por su corazón!

Dr. Eduardo Sanchez is chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association.