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Main Line Health encourages women to learn about the risks of heart disease through education and asking questions. Depositphotos
Main Line Health encourages women to learn about the risks of heart disease through education and asking questions. Depositphotos

Heart disease risk in Hispanic women

Research has shown that heart disease is the leading killer of women of all ages and race, but particularly women of color, including Hispanics. 

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For women of all races and ages, the numbers show that heart disease is the leading cause of death.

However, research has continued to show that heart disease is especially common among communities of color. Among Hispanic communities in particular, women develop heart disease a full decade younger than non-Hispanic women.

Despite the prevalence and severity of these risks, only 1 in 3 Hispanic women are aware that heart disease is the leading killer of women.

Research has shown multiple contributors to the high heart disease risk among Hispanic women.

The first of which is that generally, Hispanic women are often the caretakers not only for their partners and children, but also for generations of family members who may live under the same roof or nearby.

“The Hispanic culture is one that heavily emphasizes family and togetherness. Women are the backbone of this structure; they are often called upon to be caregivers for spouses, children, siblings and parents,” Maribel Hernandez, MD, an electrophysiologist at Lankenau Heart Institute and medical director of the Women’s Heart Initiative, said in a recent article published by Main Line Health. 

This dynamic has resulted in many women prioritizing the needs of others to the point they lose sight of their own health and wellbeing.

In addition, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Hispanic women are about 20% more likely to be overweight as compared to non-Hispanic white women.

Among Hispanic American women, 78.8% are overweight or obese, as compared to 64% of non-Hispanic white women.

Obesity can lead to higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and hypertension, all of which are common risk factors for heart disease.

A third contributor is the difficulty of managing weight without easy access to nutritious food. 

Due to some socioeconomic factors, many Hispanics live in “food deserts,” which add another layer of difficulty towards heart disease prevention.

“Women in Hispanic communities often do not have the same access to comprehensive, affordable care that non-Hispanic women do,” said Dr. Hernandez. “Many Hispanic women are uninsured, do not have an established relationship with a primary care physician, or a hospital or health center nearby that offers providers who speak Spanish or offer adequate translation services.”

All of these factors can affect a woman’s willingness to seek routine health care or emergency care.

Dr. Hernandez suggests that education is the first step to managing heart disease risk.

“Only one-third of Hispanic women know that heart disease is their greatest risk,” she said. “The more we know about our cultural and personal risk factors, the better equipped we will be to manage these risks.”

It’s important to schedule regular checkups to discuss your family history and how to proactively manage heart disease risk, including knowing key heart health numbers like blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI, triglycerides and body weight.

For questions related to your heart health or for more information about the Main Line Health Women’s Heart Initiative, their team of cardiologists and support groups, please call 484.476.3WHI (484.476.3944) or use their secure online appointment request form.

“I encourage all women not only to have conversations about heart disease with their primary care provider, but also with the other women in their life,” said Dr. Hernandez.

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