News Column

Heart Disease Risks Vary Across Hispanic Groups

Nov. 15, 2012

Staff News Editor, Cardiovascular Week

Heart disease risk factors are widespread among Hispanic/Latino adults in the United States, with 80 percent of men and 71 percent of women having at least one risk factor for heart disease, according to a San Diego State University study funded by the National Institutes of Health. These percentages are much higher than the general population, where approximately 49 percent of adults have at least one major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Findings from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL), which will be published in the, Nov. 7, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), shows that the prevalence of risk factors varies across Hispanic/Latino background groups, with some groups, particularly those with Puerto Rican background, experiencing high rates of heart disease risk factors compared to other groups.

Participants who are more "acculturated" (born in the United States or lived in the United States for 10 years or longer and preferred English vs. Spanish) were significantly more likely to have three or more risk factors. Those individuals self-reported higher rates of heart disease and stroke. Individuals with lower education or incomes were also significantly more likely to have multiple risk factors.

Findings from this phase of the study include self-reported information on heart disease and stroke and clinically measured risk factors. The study team will continue to follow participants to learn how risk factors change over time and how they influence the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

"Clinicians now have more data to understand the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors in Hispanic/Latino communities," said Greg Talavera, MD, MPH, professor in the Graduate School of Public Health at SDSU and principal investigator for the HCHS/SOL Field Center. "For example, here in San Diego the majority of Hispanic/Latinos are of Mexican background and the study found that the prevalence of diabetes was generally higher compared to other Hispanic/Latino background groups."

"Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Hispanic/Latino people in the United States; however, prior research has underestimated the burden of heart disease risk factors in Hispanic/Latino populations," said Larissa Aviles-Santa, MD, MPH, project officer for HCHS/SOL, Division of Cardiovascular Sciences in the NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which supported the study. "Additionally, previous studies on heart disease risk factors among Hispanics/Latinos have mainly involved Mexican-American participants, or have considered Hispanics/Latinos as a single group."

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