Northwest Colorado Health: Connecting with others good for heart |

Northwest Colorado Health: Connecting with others good for heart

Jaclyn McDonald
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Erick Ocampo, community health educator, with recent CHARLAR graduate, Rafaela Castro. Northwest Colorado Health’s CHARLAR program helps Latinos learn, build skills and improve health behaviors to lower their risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Courtesy photo

If you worry that you or someone you love will get heart disease or even have a heart attack, it’s understandable. 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S., according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Did you know that people who have close relationships at home, work or in their community tend to be healthier and live longer? Research shows we are more successful at meeting our health goals when we join forces with others. Feeling connected with others and having positive, close relationships benefit overall health, including blood pressure and weight. 

Northwest Colorado Health’s Community Heart Health Actions for Latinos at Risk — CHARLAR — program offers that social support, combined with health education, for Latinos in our community. CHARLAR participants learn, build skills and improve health behaviors to lower their risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Even more important, the program offers a shared learning environment, where community members support one another in setting goals around better nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle changes. 

“It helps to know there’s a group to share and learn, and makes me feel that we are not alone here,” said Rafaela Castro, a recent graduate from the CHARLAR program. “We need to be conscious about what to improve and change the habits that we grew up with. You may not be going to execute all that you’ve learned at once. But now you have the information, so you’re going to start attacking a little bit at a time.”

According to Erick Ocampo, community health educator with Northwest Colorado Health, the CHARLAR classes are impactful because they also focus on mental health aspects, such as managing stress. “A big part of our class is opening up and sharing our challenges and experiences. We may not all have the same background, but coming from different cultures, the language barriers — those challenges affect our mental health. We are building a community to support each other, while also making steps to improve our overall health.” 

Here are a few simple ways to improve your heart health, and connect with those around you: 

  • Move more
  • Aim for a healthy weight
  • Eat healthy, together
  • Manage stress and improve sleep

The CHARLAR program is held periodically in Routt and Moffat counties. For more information, contact Erick Ocampo in Steamboat Springs at 970-819-5963 or Martha Duarte in Craig at 970-870-4117.

In addition to CHARLAR, Northwest Colorado Health offers free cardiovascular screenings, community health education and primary care with integrated behavioral health support for anyone who needs it. To learn more about how we can support your heart health, visit

Jaclyn McDonald is Marketing Coordinator at Northwest Colorado Health. She can be reached at or 970-871-7642.

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