Familiarity with heart disease risk factors is associated with improved lifestyle choices, heart health, and overall health. But Hispanic women living in the United States are less aware than their white counterparts of the risk heart disease poses to them and less accurate in estimating their weight—factors that may partially explain why hypertension, diabetes, and obesity affect minority women disproportionately.
The finding appears in the Journal of Women’s Health.
A study using face-to-face questionnaires completed by 382 Hispanic and 301 non-Hispanic white women participating in the Heart Health in Action database at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City found that Hispanic women were less likely than white women to correctly identify heart disease as the leading cause of death among women (27% vs 88%). Hispanic women were also less likely to know the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke compared with white women (58.5% vs 80.8%).
Women were excluded from the study if they were at high risk for heart disease, had a known history of coronary artery disease, had undergone a cardiovascular procedure, were pregnant, or had a history of heart attack or stroke.
Additionally, Hispanic women were less likely than white women (69.4% vs 82.9%) to correctly estimate their weight, and they were far more likely to underestimate it (24.8% vs 5.0%). Among the Hispanic women, those who spoke primarily Spanish or were bilingual were less likely than those who primarily spoke English to correctly identify that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women.
The researchers concluded that effective prevention strategies that target heart disease knowledge and awareness are needed for populations at risk for heart disease. “Persistently low CVD [cardiovascular disease] awareness poses continuing challenges for Hispanic women, health care professionals, and public health officials,” they wrote. “Education about CVD, weight perception, and healthy weight are critical steps in addressing the relationship between obesity and the rise in CVD mortality attributed to it.”