Most health statistics for U.S. Hispanics and Latinos are grim. Adults have high rates of diabetes and uncontrolled blood pressure, and children have high rates of obesity.

Phoenix couple Ana Villalva and Marco Antonio Peña have heard of these problems. They don’t want to be a statistic. The Peñas and their six children got healthy together eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising.

Ana said their meal choices vary but “it’s more balanced. Sometimes my husband and I still eat tortillas, but I, for example, eat fewer. I used to eat 6 or 7 in the morning for breakfast and 7 at noon. But not anymore. Now it’s two and two.”

The family changed its habits because 14-year-old Maryflor put on a lot of weight. She had developed high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and had to see a specialist. Marco felt guilty because he was the family’s primary cook at the time.

Pena Interview Transcript – English

Maryflor committed to getting healthy early on. She lost 9 pounds after a sit-down with her pediatrician.

“She told me, seriously, that I should lose weight. Her, her voice and her words actually went inside my mind and I would always think of that.”

She was also scared of getting diabetes.

“That was one of the causes also that why I wanted to lose weight, too.”

Pediatric endocrinologist Micah Olson treated Maryflor at the Cardiometabolic Assessment Research and Education Clinic at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Olson said the teenager and her family were on track before her first visit.

“That was a great marker of success for her going forward. If the family is motivated, they are going to achieve the changes no matter what we tell them.”

Now, Maryflor wants to share her healthy recipes with younger brother Toño to help him lose weight.

“Making like a sandwich with tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and seaweed and avocado. And also like smoothies, like with mango and strawberries. And that usually tastes really, really good.”

The high school freshman—who wants to be a fashion designer—is happier now that she can wear clothes she couldn’t before. She plans to wear a purple and silver dress for her quinceañera next spring.

This is American Heart Association News.