The American Heart Association (AHA) released a statement this week advising medical professionals to take a culturally tailored approach when it comes to heart care and Hispanics.
According to the Association, despite the fact that Hispanics represent the fastest growing minority population in the United States, the has never been a comprehensive document about the cultural values and behavioral aspects that influence cardiovascular health promotion, prevention, and acceptance of treatment recommendations among this ethnicity.
“This segment of the population has been somewhat ignored,” said Carlos Rodriguez, M.D., M.P.H., in a statement. “Given the large Hispanic population in the U.S., it would be very hard to improve the health of the nation if this population is left behind.”
The AHA published the overview of heart care among Hispanics in the journal Circulation, pointing out important facts about Hispanic heart care such as:
- Hispanics are twice as likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes compared to non-Hispanic whites.
- Hispanic youths have higher smoking rates; 28 percent of Hispanic eighth grade children smoked compared to 23.7 percent of non-Hispanic white children.
- Preschool-age Hispanic children are four times more likely to be obese compared to non-Hispanic white children, and obese children are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and diabetes as young adults.
- Mexican Americans are more likely to be hospitalized for a heart attack compared to non-Hispanic whites.
- Mexican Americans are twice as likely to have an ischemic stroke before age 60 compared to non-Hispanic whites.
Because of these disparities, culturally tailored heart care will be an important part of managing heart disease as the Hispanic population grows. AHA experts suggest medical professionals not only train to understand cultural values and beliefs, language, and the impact of acculturation, but also:
- Standardize health research, electronic health records, and other surveillance systems to include Hispanic subgroups based on countries of origin.
- Increase the Hispanic healthcare workforce, including Spanish-speaking physicians.
- Establish educational programs to help Hispanic Americans recognize risk factors and warning signs of stroke and heart attack.
- Implement effective heart health promotion and disease prevention strategies within Hispanic communities and public schools.
Of all these recommendations, the value of more Hispanic-oriented research is paramount.
“One of the gaps is that of the little research we have, most of it focuses on Mexican Americans, Rodriguez said. There is still a lot we dont know about cardiovascular risk and disease in the many other Hispanic populations. We need to embrace the Hispanic population and include them in the cardiovascular health goals we have for the entire country.”
Hispanics are expected to represent 30 percent of the U.S. population by the year 2050, and as of the most recent data available, heart disease is the number one killer among this ethnicity. The AHA notes that awareness among Hispanics regarding heart care is not up to par; however, there are many other factors within the medical community that must be addressed first.