Name: Karen Flores: Married, 27 years old, 5 kids — ages 6 months to 7 years
Church: Camino Community Center
Health Factors: High cholesterol, hypothyroidism

Her Story:

Karen Flores, the mother of five young children, thought she was pretty healthy, except she needed to lose some weight.

When she was approached about joining Camino’s Village HeartBEAT team, she jumped at the chance to take advantage of the resources provided, such as the ability to work out at the McCrorey YMCA and take healthy-cooking classes. Hispanics don’t have the healthiest of diets, Flores acknowledges, and too often, they lead sedentary lifestyles.

“As a mom, you’re always thinking about your kids’ needs and not so much about your own,” Flores said, but she figured she could make the time to focus on herself a little.

At first, the pounds were coming off, good results week after week, then the weight-loss stopped. Flores talked to her doctor and after some tests, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, for which she now takes medication. Through the programs’ biometric screenings, she also discovered her cholesterol was high.

Flores credits being part of the Village HeartBEAT team for uncovering these problems before they could worsen. “If you have good healthy routines, you can see the difference when you have a health problem,” she said.

Keeping it simple

Flores said even though the kids keep her busy, it’s not impossible to find time to exercise. She focuses on the simple things, such as walking, or doing a fun activity like dancing. And she involves the kids. “If I’m walking, I take them” and she explains to them that walking is good for a healthy heart, a healthy body, she said.

When she has the time, she works out at the Y, which offers free drop-in childcare, learns new exercise routines from her trainer and participates in water aerobics.

She’s made simple changes to meals, for example, wheat breads instead of white breads, apples instead of chips for snacking. And she’s learned the value of rest.

At first, Flores said, she was so excited to be part of the program that she tried to do too many Village HeartBEAT activities and she was wearing herself out. Now when the baby takes a nap, so does she.

About Village HeartBEAT

Flores enjoys the fellowship with other Village HeartBEAT teams and having a common goal. “It doesn’t matter what church you attend, or who invites you,” she said. “We all have the same goal — to be healthy.”

Village HeartBEAT provides resources that Flores wishes more people in the community could access. Some people have an income that allows them to pay for a gym or private classes with a trainer, but families like hers can’t afford that, she said. “I need to take advantage of this program,” Flores said. “If I could do it every year, I would.”

Results so far

“My energy is different. I see the difference in my body and my mind — and my mood,” Flores said.

Flores participated in the recent Village HeartBEAT 5K Walk/Run and made it to the finish line, she said proudly. She’d never done anything like that before.

After the Village HeartBEAT challenge ends this year, Flores vows to find more ways to be happy and healthy. She will continue to work out at the Camino gym and is looking forward to a second year as part of Camino’s Village HeartBEAT team.

About Village HeartBEAT: The faith-based program, run by the Mecklenburg County Health Department, seeks to reduce health factors associated with heart disease and diabetes in African American and Latino communities. This story, sponsored by VHB, is part of a series profiling some of the participants in the program.

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