CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A program and new wellness center aim to reduce the risk of heart disease. 

Camino Health Center, a Charlotte nonprofit, is behind Camino Vida: a health and wellness program and a medically integrated fitness, nutrition and wellness center.

What You Need To Know

  • Camino Health Center offers a program to help patients with risk factors of cardiovascular disease

  • In Mecklenburg County heart disease is the second leading cause of death

  • Thanks to the program, Silvia Baños has been able to lose weight and lower her blood pressure

It offers personalized nutrition plans and personal fitness training to patients from their low-cost clinic. 

Ninety-eight percent of the patients at Camino Clinic are Latino, primarily first-generation immigrants. 

According to Camino Health Center, 26% of them have diabetes and 33% have high blood pressure. 

Camino Clinic refers patients with risk factors of cardiovascular disease to Camino Vida. 

“It's all based on their individualized needs and their preferences based on their language and their culture and any other factors that affect their health,” Camino Health Center Director of Health and Wellness Operations Jessica Montana said. 

According to a 2019 Community Health Assessment, heart disease is the second-leading cause of death for Hispanic residents and the community as a whole in Mecklenburg County. 

“By addressing the risk factors for heart disease through this program, we're really helping to improve the health of the community,” Montana said. 

Silvia Baños is one of the Camino Clinic patients now enrolled in Camino Vida after learning she had pre-diabetes and high blood pressure. 

She’s learning to cook healthier versions of her favorite meals, to eat fewer carbohydrates and to incorporate more vegetables into her diet. 

Baños is originally from Mexico and enjoys eating Mexican comfort food. 

“In our culture, we have delicious dishes but they can also be unhealthy,” Baños said. 

Baños has been in a wellness journey for less than a year. 

“I would’ve liked to learn to eat healthier before, but it’s never too late.” Baños said.

However, she recognizes it has been difficult. 

“I told the doctor, I prefer not to eat rice. I may not even eat bread that day, but I need to eat my two tortillas a day, please,” Baños said. 

She’s eating two now instead of six a day. 

The 61-year-old also started working out twice a week with a trainer at the new Camino Vida Wellness Center.

With her new diet and exercise, she’s lost more than 12 pounds, lowered her blood pressure and improved her knee health.

“Thank God and thanks to the great team they’ve formed here, I’m able to go up and down without my knee hurting,” Baños said.

The program has also helped her reduce her blood sugar levels and move her arms with ease.  

“It’s very hard, but it’s worth it,” Baños said. 

Baños and other patients referred to Camino Vida don’t have to pay extra to join the program. It’s covered through their clinic membership fee. 

The Camino Vida program was developed with the support of UNC Charlotte’s Kinesiology Department. It was made possible through the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation’s Connections for Cardiovascular HealthSM Next Generation program.