Hispanic Women and Heart Disease: What To Look For

Risk factors for heart disease prevalent among Hispanic women

Three generations of Hispanic women pictured in article about Hispanic women and heart disease.

Risk factors for heart disease prevalent among Hispanic women

Heart disease doesn’t discriminate, especially when risk factors are present. For Hispanic women, there are many risk factors to watch out for, including hypertension, obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Preventing or getting these risk factors under control can make a big difference in reducing the number of heart-related deaths among Hispanic women. Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Hispanic women, just behind cancer.

Hispanic women face other challenges that make it harder to prevent, treat or manage heart disease however, including language barriers and access to health care.

Health disparities

Education is a significant barrier for Hispanic women getting access to health care and crucial information. Only 1 in 3 Hispanic women, for example, are aware of the threat heart disease poses to women in the United States. This is compared to 1 in 2 for all women in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

“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,” says Namee Kim, MD, a cardiologist at Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo.

Clinical and behavioral risk factors for heart disease

According to AHA population data taken in 2021, among Hispanic women:

  • 42% are overweight or obese, compared to 39% of their non-Hispanic counterparts
  • 41% experience hypertension or high blood pressure.
  • 14% have physician-diagnosed diabetes and 32% had prediabetes.

Left untreated, diabetes and high blood pressure can lead to serious complications, including heart disease.

Heart disease is also the leading cause of maternal death in the U.S., which rose sharply among Hispanic women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hispanic women are also affected by behavioral risk factors, including physical inactivity and smoking.

Hispanic women and access to primary care

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.

Culturally sensitive programs

Culturally sensitive programs have shown to make a significant difference helping to lower the risk of heart disease in disadvantaged communities.

Scripps offers a diabetes prevention program in English and Spanish. The program has proven to be effective in helping people with prediabetes prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes.

“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 ways to adopt healthy prevention strategies,” says Dr. Kim, who is a member of the Scripps Women’s Heart Center

What is the Scripps Women’s Heart Center?

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.

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