FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A recent American Heart Association (AHA) study shows Hmong Americans are more likely to experience a stroke -- and at younger ages.
More than 35,000 Hmong people live in Fresno -- the second largest Hmong population in the country.
In his late-20's, Vang Her felt his life truly getting started.
He was a college graduate entering the workforce, and had just gotten married to his then-girlfriend. Vang wasn't thinking about possible health risks.
"Stroke? That's something old people get, right? You know, that's the understanding, or the general impression, right," Her said.
Research, published in the Journal of American Heart Association, found Hmong patients have a 31% risk for a stroke -- compared to white patients, at 15%. The study also found the Hmong patients were younger.
Her suffered a stroke at 29 years old, while at the airport.
Fortunately, he remembered the symptoms of a stroke from an AHA flyer.
"I remember, you know, trying to get on the ground, and I managed to get out the words to my wife: 'Help! Stroke!' Then by that time, I kind of did the cartoon thing where I go 'I'm just gonna lay down now,' then I laid down," recalled Her.
He was taken to the hospital, where the doctor confirmed he experienced a stroke, which was a symptom of a much bigger problem.
Vang had dilated cardiomyopathy - a type of heart disease.
He was confused, but had a feeling his eating habits played a role.
"Hmong people - we eat a very carb rich diet," he said. "I think for the most part, for me anyways, at that time, I was kind of like still eating a lot of home-cooked foods, you know, the traditional Hmong foods. I also ate probably about 50% American foods, so we're talking McDonald's."
Her made lifestyle changes -- from nutrition to exercise.
However, in 2020, the heart disease caught up with him and he ended up having a heart transplant.
However, after all of it, Vang said he feels better than ever.
As a volunteer for the AHA, he hopes to reduce the gaps in stroke literacy among the Hmong community.
"Especially the older generation, where English is kind of a barrier," Her explained. "They might understand enough to get by day to day, but especially when you start talking about the specifics of medical conditions, it quickly becomes overwhelming."
According to researchers, there should be an urgent need to engage with the Hmong community, both young and old.