by the Go Red For Women Editors

You often hear people say, “If only I had a second chance in life, I would do things so differently!” But unfortunately, not everyone gets that second chance.

Eva Gomez was one of the lucky ones. In her twenties, Eva was living in denial, thinking that her heart murmur, leaky valve, high blood pressure and breathing problems weren’t serious. Even after a heart aneurism, she was shocked, but still in denial.

But after open heart surgery, she knew she had that elusive second chance – a second chance that she wouldn’t get again.

Post surgery, Eva embarked on a mission to tell women about their risks. But you don’t have to wait for a problem with your own health to begin your heart disease education or help others. Take the time to educate yourself, and other women, by learning these three tips about heart disease and healthy living before it’s too late.

1. Know your risk, no matter your age
For Eva, heart health became an issue in her early twenties. She had risk factors that she ignored, like high blood pressure and being a Latina woman, and almost lost her life. No matter how small your health issues may seem, find out if you’re at risk, and what you should do to reduce it.

2. Get regular checkups
The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. Eva ignored various warning signs for 13 years. If she had gone for a checkup, her conditions could’ve been treated and monitored without the need for open heart surgery. Don’t wait until you feel symptoms. Make getting regular checkups an annual priority.

3. Make your lifestyle a heart-healthy one
Making healthy changes in your life can reduce your risk for heart disease by as much as 80 percent. That means getting at least 40 minutes of physical activity each day. It doesn’t have to be strenuous – walking, swimming, gardening and house cleaning all count. It also means eating well and including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish in your diet, and cutting back on foods high in fat, cholesterol and sugar. A heart healthy lifestyle also means learning to relax. So make it a priority to carve out plenty of time for yourself.