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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.

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Hispanic women, just behind cancer. One in 3 Hispanic women have a form of cardiovascular or heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). People with serious heart conditions are at higher risk of complications from COVID-19.

Hispanic women face multiple challenges that put them at risk for developing heart disease, including high rates of diabetes, obesity and hypertension. Many 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 a 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 Rancho Bernardo. “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.”

Risk factors for heart disease

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 and COVID-19

Protecting your heart health is more important than ever. Hispanics may experience severe illness from COVID due to higher rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Education and lack of access to health are also risk factors.

More than half of Hispanics say they would be scared to go to the hospital if they thought they were having a heart attack or stroke because they might get infected with COVID-19, according to AHA.

Hispanic women and access to health 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

Access to health care and 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 both English and Spanish, to address underserved populations with a high prevalence of diabetes. The program is part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is proven to help people with prediabetes prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes — which, when left untreated, can lead to heart disease.

“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.

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.