Let's Go Red For Women and Encourage Our Loved Ones to Schedule a Well-Woman Visit

Did you know Latinas are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than white women?

And nearly half of black women have cardiovascular disease. Yet only 20 percent believe they are at-risk.

Overall, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. Hispanic and African-American women who focus on seven health factors can improve their overall cardiovascular health and reduce their chances of heart disease and stroke.

Going to the doctor for a well-woman visit is a great place to start.

With the Affordable Care Act, nearly 80 million women covered by Medicare and private insurance are eligible for an annual well-woman visit with no out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles or copays.

The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that nearly 56 million women have received no-cost coverage for preventive services since the law went into effect.

However, according to a March 2014 Kaiser Family Foundation's Health Tracking Poll, general public awareness of the benefit was only 43 percent.

It's time to fight back against heart disease with healthy behaviors, disease prevention and early detection.

Life's Simple 7 are the seven behaviors and health factors that the American Heart Association uses to define ideal cardiovascular health. Life's Simple 7 are not smoking, eating healthier, getting physically active, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, and reducing blood sugar.

Addressing Life's Simple 7 is a critical step to becoming a well woman since changes in lifestyle risk factors can prevent 80 percent of heart disease.

A doctor can tell a woman during a well-check visit if she is as healthy as possible or at risk of heart disease, stroke or other serious illnesses. A well-woman visit should include a patient's height and weight measurement to calculate a Body Mass Index, a blood pressure check, a family health history, and a physical exam.

The visit might include fasting blood testing before, during, or after to assess cholesterol and blood glucose levels to evaluate the risk for heart diseases and stroke.

This visit is separate from other appointments for specific illnesses or injuries and can be scheduled with a primary care physician, a nurse practitioner or a gynecologist who is in a person's health plan provider network.

Despite challenges that sometimes exist within multicultural communities in getting to a doctor, more people now have access to a well-woman visit and life-saving preventive care.

At the AHA, we have made a commitment to improve the health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from heart diseases and stroke by 20 percent by 2020.

To achieve this ambitious goal, we must reach those who are disproportionately affected by heart diseases and stroke, including Hispanic and African-American women. Let's Go Red For Women and encourage our loved ones to schedule a well-woman visit with their healthcare provider today.

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