Sixth Annual Zumba Go Red for Women is Held

By Jennifer Warren

NEW WINDSOR – Forty-four million women in the United States are affected by cardiovascular disease each year. Many of them are African-American and Latina. It is the number one killer of that gender, larger than all cancers combined.

Kattya Fernandez could have become one of those dreadful statistics; however, she refused. Rather, she elected to become a part of a brighter population, the 80 percent that are proving heart disease is very preventable. Diagnosed with Mitral Value Regurgitation about 10 years ago, Fernandez was one of the lucky, who took the needed steps to discover and treat the rampant silent affliction.

“Millions of women have this, but don’t know they have it because they have not been diagnosed, or they just don’t follow up with their doctors,” explained Fernandez.” Staying on top of it by having regular checkups with my cardiologist is the key.”

The other piece of that puzzle is all Fernandez: staying fit and eating a healthy diet. The pro-active approach has paid huge dividends in combatting the disease she has lived with on a daily basis for the last decade. In the past six years, that “answer” has extended to an even wider audience, an energetic, motivating “mission” to bring fitness awareness to all people. Fernandez found the ideal vehicle to that end laid in a unique, rhythmic, cultural dance craze: Zumba.

“As a person who lives with heart disease, it is very important for me to spread awareness to as many people as I can,” explained Fernandez.

And what better way to combine two of her greatest passions: eliminating heart disease and Zumba than to hold a Zumbathon in the month of February, National Heart Health Month. Enter: “Zumba Go Red For Women,” a Zumba marathon fest, dedicated to raising crucial awareness and funds for the American Heart Association. On Sunday, 152 smiling, excited and ready-to-move women, clad in the symbolic red tops, showed up at a building at Stewart Airport to dance, sweat, celebrate and unite, as they were guided by a rotating ensemble of approximately 20 pumped up Zumba instructors, one of them Fernandez herself. Welcoming the jubilant crowd in, the always smiling and positive Fernandez could be spotted pumping her fists into the air, excited to get the afternoon going, and everyone in the room moving, moving, moving.

“We all need to exercise and eat healthy,” exclaimed Fernandez, donning a brilliant outfit and white tassled boots. “We can do this.”

Fernandez has been doing it, living her fitness mantra her entire life. Now, her role as an inspiration to hundreds of people in the area is truly being felt. Raising over $9000 dollars from this event over the last five years, Sunday’s tally came in at $3100. Her charismatic appeal and feel- good magnetic personality are attracting more followers, as is her personal success story. In fact, on May 6 she will be honored as a survivor of heart disease at the Tri-County Heart Walk at Harriman Park.

The contagious nature of Fernandez was everywhere Sunday afternoon. If you didn’t see it, you certainly felt it.

“Everyone is smiling in here; whether you are participating or not; it’s contagious,” said Bernadette Scheible of New Windsor, a long-time friend of Fernandez and also a fellow Zumba instructor. “Kattya has a ton of energy, able to bring people of all backgrounds, ages, etc. together for a wonderful cause that has made us as women so much more aware,” said Scheible. “I believe today is the biggest turnout ever, and I believe it is because of Kattya; she has such a way about her that you just want to come out here and join in on what’s happening.”

Also among the crowd was JoAnn Parker, Developmental Director for the American Heart Association for the Tri-County Area. “Honored” to be at the Zumbathon, Parker, like so many others has been inspired by Fernandez, her mission, personality and never-say-die attitude.

“For someone like Kattya to bring awareness with something like this is so important for our community because it brings attention, especially since she is so motivating with her message to keep people moving,” said Parker. “She is living proof you can change your life around by making changes in your diet, lifestyle and other lasting ways and fight heart disease.”

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