Heart Health Knowledge Lagged Among Hispanics

Cardiovascular disease and its link to obesity may be less clear among Hispanic women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Although more people have become informed about cardiovascular disease, minority women may be lacking information when it comes to understanding how being overweight or obese can impact heart health.

While the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure is high among the overall US Hispanic population, a new study found that Hispanic women were less likely than white women to recognize that cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death and that being overweight can be a contributing factor.

"Maintain a healthy weight to help ward off heart disease."

Elise Grace-Giardina, MD, of the Center for Women’s Health at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and coauthors compared Hispanic and non-Hispanic white women on their awareness of cardiovascular disease risk factors.

These investigators had 382 Hispanic women and 301 non-Hispanic white women complete questionnaires to assess their health, risk factors and knowledge of cardiovascular disease.

Compared with the white subjects in the study, Hispanics had less education and were more likely to live in urban areas. They were also more likely to have Medicaid insurance.

The researchers noted more cases of diabetes and high blood pressure in the Hispanic group, while the white women had more incidences of high cholesterol. Hispanics less frequently got nutritional information from a physician or nurse.

Less than a third of the Hispanic women (27 percent) knew that cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death among women, compared to 88 percent of the white participants. While 58.5 percent of the Hispanic participants knew the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, 80.8 percent of the white group knew the symptoms.

When it came to being overweight, more Hispanic women had an abnormal body mass index (BMI). Two thirds of the Hispanic women were overweight versus 41.5 percent of the white women. A quarter of the Hispanic participants underestimated how much they weighed, compared to 5 percent of white participants.

When looking at only the overweight participants, close to half of the Hispanic women underestimated their weight, compared to about 13 percent of the white subjects.

“Despite ongoing health education initiatives to improve cardiovascular disease knowledge, sustained educational messages are needed for Hispanic women,” wrote the authors.

They added that many racial-ethnic minority groups, including Hispanics with high BMI, “may not recognize correct body size, nor be familiar with the link between obesity and hypertension, and diabetes and heart disease, even though these are obesity-related conditions.”

The authors of this study concluded that more education about cardiovascular disease, weight perception and healthy weight may help Hispanic women better understand the relationship between obesity and the rise in heart disease deaths attributed to it.

"Sometimes the biggest hurdle in taking care of patients is getting them to understand medical concepts which are foreign to them. If you have additional cultural or language barriers, it makes the job that much harder," said Jeffrey Schussler, MD, an interventional cardiologist on the medical staff at Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital and Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

"This study highlights a population which traditionally has been underserved, at times due to socio-economic constraints. It suggests that we might do well to focus more attention on this group in order to try to prevent cardiovascular problems which occur later in life," said Dr. Schussler, who was not involved in this study.

Dr. Grace-Giardina and colleagues stressed that programs should be focused on Hispanic women, including those who are overweight and obese and those who speak primarily Spanish.

This study was published in the Journal of Women’s Health.

The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 9, 2014
Last Updated:
January 10, 2014