Heart disease doesn’t discriminate. Long viewed primarily as a men’s disease, heart disease strikes women in great numbers. For Hispanic women, it is the second leading cause of death, just behind cancer. One in 3 Hispanic women have a form of cardiovascular or heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
Hispanic women face multiple challenges that put them at risk for developing heart disease, including high rates of diabetes, obesity and hypertension. Many are also face challenges due to language barriers and access to health care, which can make it difficult for them to prevent or treat heart-related conditions.
Education is another significant barrier. Only 1 in 3 Hispanic women are aware of the threat heart disease poses to women in the United States. This compared to 1 in 2 for all women in the US, according to AHA.
“Millions of women are currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease,” says Namee Kim, MD, a cardiologist at Scripps Clinic. “Despite the risks that women in general face for developing heart disease, many Hispanic women are not aware of these dangers, which is why education and taking preventive action are so important for this fast growing community,”
Heart disease, which is a variety of conditions that affect the heart's structure and function, is the leading cause of death for all women, especially for White and African-American women. It is the second leading cause of death for Hispanic women, (19.6%), just behind cancer, (22% percent), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to AHA, among Hispanic women 20 and older:
- 32.4% have cardiovascular disease
- 5.9% have coronary heart disease
- 1.7% have had a heart attack
- 3.8% have angina
- 2% have had a stroke
There are several risk factors for heart disease that one can control, which is why education is so important in preventing and managing heart-related conditions.
Many of the known risk factors for heart disease — high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, diabetes, physical inactivity and being overweight — are prevalent among Hispanic women,.
According to AHA, among Hispanic women:
- 29.9% have high blood pressure
- 76.3% are overweight or obese, compared to 68.5% of all adults in US
- 20.3% of Hispanic girls are physically inactive
- 11.8% have physician-diagnosed diabetes; 5% have diabetes but are not aware of it; 26% have pre-diabetes
Left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious complications, including heart disease. The same goes for high blood pressure.
Hispanic women also face social and economic barriers that make it difficult to prevent and treat heart disease.
Hispanic women are nearly three times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to lack health insurance, and less likely to have an established primary care physician. Culturally, Hispanic women frequently prioritize family responsibilities over self-care. As a result, they may be less likely to seek medical care for themselves than for their families.
Access to health care and culturally sensitive programs have shown to make a significant difference.
At Scripps, Project Dulce is recognized by the American Diabetes Association and Medicare as a culturally sensitive program that addresses the needs of underserved populations with diabetes, including Hispanics.
“By partnering with a physician who understands their personal and cultural heart care needs, Hispanic-American women can lower their risk of heart disease and learn to adopt healthy prevention strategies,” says Dr. Kim, who is a member of the Scripps Women’s Heart Center care team.
Scripps Women’s Heart Center provides heart care for women, by women. Our female cardiologists are experts in cardiology and integrative medicine and specialize in female heart disease. We’re dedicated to empowering women to take care of their hearts through education, lifestyle and, when needed, expert medical care.