A Heart Alert for Young Hispanic Women

Heart attack death risk is higher for younger Hispanic women compared to white women and men

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Heart disease is often unrecognized and undertreated in young women. Hispanic women under the age of 65 especially may face a higher mortality risk after a heart attack compared to others.

Death rates from acute heart attack have been on the decline for both men and women. New research, however, finds that younger Hispanic women have a high likelihood of dying in hospitals after a heart attack. They are more likely to suffer from co-existing conditions such as diabetes and less likely to undergo heart procedures compared with white women and men.

"Educate yourself on the risk factors for heart disease."

Fatima Rodriguez, MD, an internal medicine resident at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston, led the analysis of race/ethnicity data on 207,000 heart attack hospitalizations for adult men and women.

Dr. Rodiguez and her colleagues discovered that younger Hispanic female patients in this investigation were 1.5 times more likely to die compared with white men. Black women face a 1.4 times greater mortality risk compared to white men, and for white women, the risk is 1.2 times higher.

Scientists highlighted that younger Hispanic women also had the highest rates of diabetes at 60 percent compared with 46 percent of black women and 36 percent of white women.

In addition, Hispanic and black women were less likely to get potentially life-saving heart procedures to restore blood flow to blocked arteries.

About half of Hispanic women and 47 percent of black women in this study had percutaneous coronary interventions or coronary artery bypass surgery compared to 58 percent of white women and 73 percent of white men.

With PCI, or coronary angioplasty, a catheter is inserted into an artery through the arm, wrist, upper leg, or groin area, and then it is guided to the area of the blockage. A balloon at the end of the catheter is inflated to open the blocked vessel and restore blood flow to the heart.

With bypass surgery, a healthy artery or vein from the body (often the leg) is connected so that it bypasses or goes around the blocked portion of the coronary artery.

Doctors may not recognize risk factors and symptoms for young women who have ischemic (causing a decrease in blood supply) heart disease and younger Hispanic women in particular, according to the authors.

Language barriers, lack of access to health care, provider bias, and differences in treatment patterns may also be contributing to these disparities between genders and races.

"Our findings of striking racial/ethnic, gender, and age disparities in heart attack treatment patterns and outcomes suggest that young minority women should be targeted for both primary and secondary prevention of ischemic heart disease," said Dr. Rodriguez in a press release.

She told dailyRX News, “Among Hispanic women who have the highest rates of metabolic syndrome [a group of risk factors that contribute to heart disease, including high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, high bad cholesterol levels, and a large waistline], diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, ensuring adequate access to care for primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease is of utmost importance. Additionally, women may have atypical presentations of a heart attack and should be better educated on these risk factors, signs, and symptoms in order to seek prompt medical attention.”

This study was presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in November. The full study has yet to go under peer-review and be published.


Review Date: 
November 23, 2013
Last Updated:
November 26, 2013