American Heart Association Volunteer Shares Her Journey

When Carmen Melgoza’s father passed away at the age of 57 from a heart attack, it was her wake-up call. “It opened my eyes. I was more careful about the way I ate and I changed my stationary life style,” she says. That was 11 years ago. Originally motivated to lose 45 pounds, she has since built a business around helping people sustain a healthy lifestyle.

Carmen wanted to support others who might be struggling to make the same kinds of changes she had made. She began private coaching, focusing on basic nutrition and teaching cardio fitness classes in a local park. In 2010, she began writing a Spanish-language blog as a part of Latino Fit Club(link opens in new window), her fitness website, sharing nutrition information and fitness tips. Her section on recipes features Mexican and American favorites in which she trades traditional ingredients for unconventional but healthier options, like huevos rellenos(link opens in new window) (deviled eggs) stuffed with quinoa, purple onion and crema de chipotle made with yogurt.

“Food is very important in the Latino culture. Although I knew I had to make healthier choices, I wasn’t going to sacrifice flavor.”

Through the social media community, she discovered the American Heart Association’s (AHA) programs to reach underserved communities and began volunteering to support them.

This past year she participated in several events for AHA’s Go Red Por Tu Corazón program that focuses on women’s heart health in the Hispanic community. She shared information on exercising at the A Tu Salud (To Your Health) health expo and created a buzz on social media in support of the Dia de las Madres (Mother’s Day) dinner. She was a keynote speaker at the Almuerzo y Conferencia Por Tu Corazón (Luncheon and Conference for Your Heart) event. She also acts as an AHA spokesperson for Spanish-language media in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Carmen is especially interested in the dilemma that Latinas face being the gatekeepers of their family’s well-being. Carmen challenges traditional concepts of how women care for both their families and themselves.

“Women need to put themselves first,” Carmen insists, “How can you share quality time with your family when you are not bringing your best self to the table? When you take care of yourself, you take better care of your family.”

Go Red Por Tu Corazón aims to inspire lifestyle changes that can be as simple as cooking traditional foods with healthier ingredients, teaching loved ones to embrace good health by grocery shopping for healthier foods and exercising together as a family.