Lynette Bloise has been to over a dozen heart doctors. It took time and patience before she found a cardiologist she’s comfortable with to treat her chronic heart problems.
Bloise, 68, and her sister share the same genetic heart condition their mother had. The condition is more prevalent in women and Bloise is already making sure her daughter and three granddaughters, ages 20, 11, and 2, are heart healthy.
Hispanic heart health
Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanics. That’s according to the American Heart Association (AHA), which also reports heart disease is a top killer of Hispanic women.
Health experts say Hispanic women may be more at risk for developing heart disease because of lifestyles and high rates of diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. In addition, Hispanics may face language barriers and issues with access to healthcare.
For Bloise, her heart problems started in her 20s. Her doctor put her on a beta blocker. Years later, she experienced skipped heartbeats but didn’t think much of it. Instead, she attributed it to being “too far North” of her native Puerto Rico. By then, she was married and living in Western Massachusetts with her husband.
Then when she was 32, her doctor told her she had mitral valve prolapse, the improper closure of the valve between the upper and lower left chambers of the heart.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2007 when she had chest discomfort during the night.
“I was awake the whole night, listening to this awful, ugly, out-of-rhythm heart,” she said.
She felt better by the morning and had her nephew, who was in medical school, check her out. A few days later, she went to a cardiologist.
Bloise didn’t have any other heart pain until the following July when she was extremely thirsty and didn’t feel well. She drove herself to the hospital.
“This was the worst thing that can ever happen to anybody,” she said. “I thought I was going to die.”
She said the doctor had to stop her heart. She was hospitalized, received treatment and was referred to a cardiologist, but she says the doctor didn’t take her seriously, including being upset that she asked so many questions.
“Later on, I was told that doctor almost resigned because I asked him too many questions,” she said, calling it a slap in the face. “I never knew if it was because I was Puerto Rican or because I had an accent.”
Bloise, who’s retired from her career as a psychotherapist, has always been her own advocate.
She advises other Latinas with heart problems to be patient and find providers they can trust.
“Don’t give up. Just be in touch with yourself,” she said. “Be confident that you know your body, because you know what feels good and what doesn’t.”
Over the years, Bloise has had different heart scares, including an episode where her heart was racing at 265 beats a minute. She’s had two heart ablations to fix flutter and another ablation to the back of her heart.
Now she’s a WomenHeart Champion, volunteering with the non-profit WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. Since 2002, the group has trained over 900 women with heart disease to share their stories and empower other women to take charge of their heart health.
These days, she’s offering online help to women via a virtual support group. Her dream is to lead a heart health group in Spanish.
Pre-pandemic, she did a lot of heart health outreach, including giving red scarves she crocheted to women at local hospitals who have heart problems.
“You can discover a symbol of sisterhood,” Bloise said. “We’re here for you.”