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Is Ethnicity a Factor in Heart Disease? Heart Disease in Hispanic Women

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When it comes to risk factors for heart disease, is your ethnic heritage really a risk factor in developing heart disease? Does race really matter? Are you at a greater risk for developing heart disease simply because of the color of you skin?

The answer is of some interest to me. I come from a melting pot family of seven children - three girls and four boys (And no, my parents weren’t Catholic – there just apparently wasn’t a lot to do in the winter time in a one horse town in the middle of west Texas!) Of the seven of us, one sister is Hispanic and one brother is African-American in their ethnic heritage. The rest of us are Irish-German-Dutch-Scots (you get the picture – we’re just plain American mongrel mutts). We also have a strong history of heart disease and heart disease risk factors – obesity, chronic high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels (even when we weigh a proper amount), and family history of death due to heart disease.

You know siblings – we share and share alike (well, sometimes we share!). While we may have different ethnic heritages, unfortunately we do share many of the same risk factors for heart disease. As the leader-of-the-pack, it fell to me to find out just how the things that we don’t share (like race) may tip the heart attack scales for some of us. Since one of my beloved sisters is Hispanic, I wanted to look at the impact of race, if any, for Hispanic women when it comes to developing heart related disease.

Conventional medical thought has been that for women in particular, race does matter. Consider the following facts from the American Heart Association about heart disease in Hispanic women:

•Leading cause of death for all Hispanics (men and women combined).
•For women, heart related disease is responsible for more than 32 percent of all deaths in Hispanic women.
•Almost 30 percent of Hispanic women have already developed heart disease by age 20.

When it comes to risk factors for heart disease, Hispanic woman don’t fare well as all:

•Obesity – More than 70 percent of Hispanic women are overweight by age 20.
•Physical inactivity – Almost 60 percent of Hispanic women are physically inactive after age 18.
•High blood pressure – By age 20, over 28 percent of Hispanic women have high blood pressure.
•Smoking – Many of us smoke which increases our risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Approximately 12 percent of Hispanic women increase their risk factor for heart disease and stroke by adding smoking to the list.
•Diabetes – While more than half of all diabetics are women, the rates of diabetes are at least twice as high for Hispanic women as their Angle counterparts and in some regions of the United States, the rate is four times as high. Heart disease is one of the major risk factors in diabetes.
•Metabolic syndrome – Hispanic women tend to have high levels of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a term used when a person has a group of risk factors such as high blood pressure, too much belly fat, bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, high levels of C-reactive proteins, and diabetes.

Information and education appears to be a factor for heart disease in Hispanic women as well. Most Hispanic women did not consider themselves to be educated or informed about heart disease and their risk factors. The American Heart Association reported that only about 30 percent of Hispanic women felt educated and informed regarding heart health compared to 40 percent of women from a white-Anglo background. (Frankly, I think that the numbers are dismal regardless of race – no one so many women die of heart disease. No wonder we need national campaigns like Go Red For Women!)

So, what’s the take away from all this? What can we do? What can you do?

1. Number one, despite the many great programs that are out there (like Go Red for Women), there is still a great need for education when it comes to women and heart disease. The need for education appears to be even greater for women who are of Hispanic heritage.
2. If you don’t know your risk factors, then you need to find out where you stand on the heart disease scale. If you’ll look here at my profile on EmpowHER, you’ll find many articles about resources that are available both online and in communities throughout the U.S.
3. One you know your risk factors, address them one by one. Many of the risk factors are preventable and you can change your heart health outlook.
4. Seek advice from a medical professional, if necessary.
5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, spread the word. Tell your sisters, cousins, in-laws, out-laws, friends and co-workers about the risk factors for women in heart disease. If you have Hispanic friends/relatives, make certain that they know that their Hispanic heritage may play an important factor in heart disease.

Heart disease may be one of the most preventable diseases. My sister has inspired me. She’s cycling 10 miles a day and has lost 68 pounds. These simple lifestyle changes have reduced her risk factors for heart disease and tipped the scales in favor of life. Let’s all do the same.


Facts About Heart Disease and Stroke in Hispanic Women, Go Red for Women, American Heart Association, August 2003, http://www.ilacc.org/gored/GoRed-HispFacts.pdf

Diabetes and Women's Health Across the Life Stages: A Public Health Perspective Fact Sheet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 March 2010, http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/women/index.htm

Diabetes and Women's Health Across the Life Stages: A Public Health Perspective Fact Sheet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/factsheets/hispanic.htm

Metabolic Syndrome: What is Metabolic Syndrome?, American Heart Association, http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4756

Mary Kyle is a free lance writer, editor, and project manager. She has a Master of Arts in Legal Studies, a Bachelor of Music, and multiple professional certifications in project management. In addition to health advocacy, she is passionate about literacy and volunteers in local schools teaching writing seminars and reading.

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EmpowHER Guest

When it comes to cardivascular diseases, Does race matter?

posted on: sat,nov 2010
posted by : manuheart123
Cardio Vascular Disease, the disease of the heart and blood vessels, is one of the leading causes of death known today. A low level of vitamin D is an independent risk factor for CVD. Even younger people also become victims of this deadly disease.

A survey was conducted among rural women, 27% African American and 74% White, to examine relationships among race, cardio vascular risk factors, physical characteristics and socioeconomic status. It was revealed that African American women in the study were significantly less educated and had a lower income and a higher Body Mass Index (BMI), than the White women. The Black women had a higher incidence of cardio vascular disease as compared to the White women.

link:- http://www.heart-consult.com/articles/does-race-matter

November 19, 2010 - 10:29pm

Kudos to you on a great post! I am a cardiac nurse practitioner who has worked in a women's heart center for the past 3 years screening women for heart disease, stroke and diabetes risk factors. About a year ago we started a Hispanic initiative to help increase awareness among Hispanic women. I co-authored a book "Tome Contol De Su Salud" in spanish to help get the message out to Hispanic men and women. Our book should be released in a couple of weeks - please let me know if you are aware of any groups we should contact to help get the word out. Keep up the Great Work!

August 5, 2010 - 3:06pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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