Cardiovascular Disease In Latino Population: American Heart Association Makes Statement Calling For 'Culturally Proficient Healthcare' For Hispanic Americans Shutterstock/Deerfield Photo

Cardiovascular disease is a worldwide epidemic that is threatening developed and developing nations alike. In the United States, it is the number one cause of death claiming 600,000 lives each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death across various races, including: African Americans, Hispanics and Caucasians. In fact, in 2008, 20.8 percent of all deaths in the Hispanic population were caused by heart disease.

A new scientific statement by the American Heart Association (AHA), published by the journal Circulation, provides an in-depth view on what healthcare providers and researchers need to do. According to the AHA, public health experts and healthcare professionals need to develop strategies that target the Hispanic population in order to guarantee methods to be effective.

"Healthcare providers need to consider culture and ethnicity as they counsel Hispanic patients on health behavior and health outcomes," says Dr. Carlos J. Rodriguez, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Professor of Epidemiology & Prevention at the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, to the Latin Times. "Because Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing ethnic population in the United States, new research and clinical efforts should be directed towards understanding their range of diverse racial and cultural profiles. Addressing the cardiovascular health of U.S. minority populations, such as Hispanics, will help improve the cardiovascular health of the country as a whole."

"One of the gaps is that of the little research we have on Hispanics, most of it focuses on Mexican Americans, there is still a lot we don’t know about cardiovascular risk and disease in the many other Hispanic populations. Our statement concludes that there are important differences and similarities among the different Hispanic background groups which need to be appreciated when evaluating cardiovascular risk and disease."

One of the risk factors of cardiovascular disease is diabetes and previous studies have found that Latinos have a high prevalence of type 2 diabetes. In fact, a national study on Latino health, released earlier this year by the National Institutes of Health, found that Latinos are prone to develop Type 2 diabetes and one in three Latinos had pre-diabetes. Additionally, obesity is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and findings from Arizona State University have revealed that Hispanics in the U.S. have high obesity rates, with an estimated 55 percent qualifying to fit in that category.

Dr. Rodriguez adds that smoking also puts Latinos at risk -- Hispanic youth have higher smoking rates -- and the CDC has reported that one of the leading causes of death for Hispanics in the United States is cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking is more prevalent in the male population (17 percent) than female (8.6 percent), making Latino men more at risk than women.

"For Hispanics, we need to be more aware of cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death among Hispanics in the United States," explains Dr. Rodriguez. "Latinos need to recognize risk factors and to know their numbers (cholesterol and blood pressure and fasting glucose). We also need to be aware of what aspects of our culture may be harmful to us and what aspects may be beneficial in the fight against heart disease. We also need to be aware of teaching our children heart-healthy behaviors to follow."

And as far as the healthcare community is concerned, the AHA recommends various measures, including: training healthcare providers to provide culturally proficient healthcare to Hispanic Americans; standardizing health research, electronic health records, and other surveillance systems to include Hispanic subgroups based on countries of origin; increasing the Hispanic healthcare workforce (e.g. Spanish-speaking physicians); establishing educational programs to help Hispanic Americans recognize risk factors and warning signs of stroke and heart attack; and implementing effective heart health promotion and disease prevention strategies within Hispanic communities and public schools.

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