With the U.S. Latino population rapidly increasing, the American Heart Association revealed health care professionals need to better understand the "unique" heart health risks of Hispanics.

According to the American Heart Association's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, heart disease and stroke are top reasons for deaths among Hispanics, due to high rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. The health organization also noted health care professionals need to tailor their care of Hispanics, citing traits and trends that occur in Spanish-speaking countries across the Americas and Caribbean.

According to Sanchez, health concerns start at a young age. He noted preschool-age Hispanic children are four times more likely than non-Hispanic white children to be obese, thus increasing their odds of developing heart disease and diabetes as young adults.

Hispanic youths also are reportedly smoking at a higher rate. Data from Hispanic 8th graders found 28 percent of them smoked, compared to 23.7 percent of non-Hispanic white children. Sanchez stated approximately two out of three Hispanics have "uncontrolled high blood pressure," a "silent killer."

"We hope that we can move into a new era when we can look at this population with a more nuanced perspective," said author of the American Heart Association's latest report, Dr. Carlos Rodriguez, a cardiologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

"Providing culturally appropriate health care is vital to saving lives and preserving families. ... Strong and culturally relevant health promotion, prevention and treatment efforts on many fronts are the only ways we can make up this critical gap," Dr. Sanchez said.

The American Heart Association revealed goals set for 2020 to help the health of Hispanics. The aim of the 2020 goals is to improve cardiovascular health by reducing cardiovascular disease by 20 percent.

The American Heart Association's study includes findings from 400 articles and studies, though as Reuters noted, "much" of the information focused on the Mexican-American population. As a result, an inaccurate view of other Hispanic populations, such as those in Puerto Rico and South America, may be present in the study's data.

"We need to better understand how risk factors vary in different Hispanic subgroups," Sanchez said. "We also need engaged, aware health care providers who appreciate cultural nuances and who ask patients the right questions about country or countries of origin, cultural norms, family history, belief systems and diet in the patient's preferred language.

The American Heart Association's study also recommended screenings for cardiovascular disease begin at a younger age for Hispanics.


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