ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., June 7, 2023 – Shayai Lucero, a Native American entrepreneur and heart survivor, is the newest member of the American Heart Association-New Mexico board of directors.
At age 43, Lucero received a stent after having a widowmaker, the informal term for a heart attack that involves a 100% blockage in the biggest artery of the heart. She is the owner and a floral designer for Earth & Sky Floral Designs and Gallery located on the Pueblo in Laguna reservation.
Every local volunteer board is the heartbeat of the American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all. Board members are leaders in communities, and their passion for the Association’s mission drives its success in science and research, health advocacy and community impact. Being a board member is one of the most impactful ways to serve.
Heart disease affects Native American populations at a rate of 20% greater than other ethnicities, yet prevention is not a top health priority among Native Americans, Lucero said. She is eager to change that, using the story of her own health journey and sharing what she’s learned about creating healthier versions of traditional Native American dishes.
“I paid more attention to the prevention of other illnesses, but when my heart attack occurred, I kept thinking, ‘What did I miss?’” she said. “I think if people see and hear from someone who is directly impacted by heart disease, then it could have a greater impact of making the appropriate life changes.”
The plight of the busy working mom, many of whom set aside their own health issues to care for those around them, motivated Lucero to want to take better care of herself.
“Women are always multitasking and handling so many things at once,” she said. “Our brains are always planning and organizing. Our bodies are often pushed to the limits physically. But for what purpose? If we keep hurting ourselves, then we won't be of any use to our families and communities.”
Lucero has attended and presented at the annual Albuquerque-based Go Red for Native Women, an event designed specifically to meet the cultural health needs of the community. Lucero was also this year’s winner of the 2023 Red Dress Award, which she received at the American Heart Association-New Mexico Go Red for Women Luncheon in Albuquerque. The award goes to a woman who has made notable healthy lifestyle changes.
After her heart attack, she learned about cardiac rehabilitation and about the foods she could no longer eat, but most of all, she learned that by listening to her symptoms and heart, she saved her life.
“Not all women are going to pay attention like I did,” Lucero said. “I think if I can share what I was feeling physically and mentally when the heart attack was occurring, it could be life changing for other women.”
Lucero is also president of the board for the Changing Woman Initiative, a nonprofit focused on providing culturally integrated healthcare for the Native American/Indigenous women and families in the communities it serves. She and her life partner Aaron Fry have two children, Kaweshchima and Maityaitsa.
Sherri Wells, executive director of the American Heart Association-New Mexico, has long admired Lucero for her creativity and commitment to her health.
“I am humbled and honored that Shayai has decided to join our board,” Wells said. “She’s built a reservation-based business and raised two children while keeping her eye on the health needs of her community. Her experience will add many layers to the dynamic makeup up our board.”
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook or Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.
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