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US Hispanics at high risk for cardiovascular disease

Hispanics and Latinos living in the U.S. are highly likely to have several major cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and smoking, according to a new, large-scale study. Risks vary among the diverse Hispanic/Latino groups, but individuals who were born in the U.S. are more likely to have multiple risk factors.

The findings are reported in the Nov. 7 issue of JAMA.

Hispanic and Latino people now comprise the largest minority group in the U.S. Although this population is relatively young, cardiovascular diseases are already their leading cause of death -- and the group is at high risk of future cardiovascular disease as it becomes older.

The data came from 15,079 Hispanic/Latino men and women who participated in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL).

"We found that U.S. Hispanic/Latino prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors had been underestimated," says Dr. Martha Daviglus, director of the Institute for Minority Health Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago and first author of the JAMA report.

A "very large" proportion of study participants -- 80 percent of men and 71 percent of women -- were found to have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, said Daviglus, who is principal investigator of the Chicago HCHS/SOL Field Center.

Prevalence of three or more risk factors was highest among those of Puerto Rican background, and significantly higher among those with less education, those who were born in the U.S., those who lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years, and those whose preferred language was English rather than Spanish.

"It is important to understand the distribution of risk factors in this relatively young population," Daviglus said, "because this is our opportunity to educate the community and prevent cardiovascular disease that could be devastating to this population as they age."

The HCHS/SOL included men and women between the ages of 18 and 74 of Cuban, Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Central and South American backgrounds. The study was designed to investigate the prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases and to determine the incidence and death rates from those diseases among Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S.

Participants were recruited and examined between March 2008 and June 2011 in four field centers affiliated with San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego; Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Chicago; Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York; and the University of Miami. Dr. Gregory A. Talavera from San Diego State University, principal investigator of the San Diego Field Center, was co-first author of the report.

Contact: Jeanne Galatzer-Levy
University of Illinois at Chicago

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