While heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States across all ethnic groups, it is of heightened concern for Hispanics. This is due to the fact that Hispanic populations are more likely to have high blood pressure and have higher rates of, obesity and diabetes, all of which can increase the risk of developing heart disease.
“It is a combination of genetic factors along with our current lifestyle (diet and exercise),” said Dr. Jorge Escobar-Camargo, an interventional cardiologist at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. “Life can be hectic, leaving little time for exercise and healthy cooking, which makes many of us start looking for easier solutions. These may include take-out, which may not be the healthiest option. That, along with our intrinsic genetic predisposition, puts us at a higher risk of developing different cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.”
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects the heart’s arteries and muscles, increasing the risk of heart disease. An increase in blood pressure can slow or restrict blood flow to the heart. As the heart is forced to work even harder to pump blood through your system, it can cause heart failure or a heart attack.
A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than a quarter of Hispanics reported having high blood pressure. Of those individuals with hypertension, nearly one third were not taking medication that could help reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke.
High Prevalence of Obesity
According to the CDC, the prevalence of obesity is 44.8% among Hispanics. Being overweight can lead to a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which further increases your risk of heart attack or stroke. Also, being obese can increase your blood pressure, lower “good” HDL cholesterol, and raise “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Growing Rates of Diabetes
An estimated 17% of adult Hispanics have type 2 diabetes, but as many as half don’t know it. Diabetes can lead to serious complications when left untreated. In fact, heart disease, particularly coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure, is nearly twice as common for people with diabetes because high blood sugar can be harmful to the heart’s blood vessels.
While Hispanics and Latinos have a high prevalence of risk factors for heart disease, many of these conditions can be managed through conscious lifestyle changes. Keeping up with information on heart disease and following a healthy lifestyle can help. Schedule an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group primary care physician to get an assessment of your current health and risk factors. For comprehensive cardiovascular care, find a St. Luke’s Health cardiologist near you.
“Prevention is key,” said Dr. Escobar-Camargo. “Heart health is a team-based approach, where we as cardiologists work closely with the patient (and many other specialists) to maximize the chance of preventing heart disease. If we want to prevent heart disease, we must act early in order to optimize behaviors and adequately control risk factors.”
CDC | Hispanic/Latino Americans and Type 2 Diabetes
CDC | Adult Obesity Facts