Hispanic women are significantly less likely than non-Hispanic white women to understand basic cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and information, according to new data published in the Journal of Women’s Health that also looks at those who are overweight.
Not only was knowledge regarding CVD lacking among Hispanic women, they were also found to significantly underestimate their weight–a CVD risk factor–compared to non-Hispanic whites.
“Education about cardiovascular disease, weight perception, and healthy weight are critical steps in addressing the relationship between obesity and the rise in CVD mortality attributed to it,” wrote Elsa-Grace V. Giardina, MD, of the Center for Women’s Health along with her colleagues in their research.
She is with the division of cardiology and department of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, and colleagues wrote in the research.
“Focused attention to Hispanic women, including those who are overweight and obese and those who speak primarily Spanish, provides an opportunity to broaden the scope to improve CVD knowledge and to transform current behaviors,” wrote Doctor Giardina.
The women in the research, more than 600 Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites, were asked to identify themselves as overweight, normal or underweight and then measured to assess their body mass index (BMI).
Researchers also asked the study participants to select a picture of body image that best described them, offering images from what is known as the Stunkard silhouette scale.
The results demonstrated Hispanic women were significantly less likely than non-Hispanic whites to correctly assess their body weight; only 69.4 percent were able to identify their weight correctly compared to 82.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
In addition, underestimation of weight was higher among Hispanics at 48.5 percent compared to 12.7 in overweight non-Hispanic participants. More than 17 percent of obese Hispanic women underestimated weight compared to 0 of non-Hispanic obese participants.
The same patterns were seen in the silhouette test; Hispanic women were less likely than non-Hispanic white women to choose silhouettes corresponding to the measured BMI, and Hispanic participants were more likely to underestimate silhouettes that corresponded to their BMI.
Cardiovascular disease a risk in weight complications
When asked about CVD, one of the chronic illnesses related to carrying excess weight, Hispanic women were less likely than non-Hispanic white women to correctly identify CVD as the leading cause of death among women, and were less likely to know the symptoms of a myocardial infarction or stroke.
“The American Heart Association has identified obesity as a major modifiable CVD risk factor—a health risk affecting nearly 2 of every 3 women,” wrote the researchers in the study.
“Hispanic and non-Hispanic black women disproportionally experience CVD risks from hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and overweight and obesity.”
Experts speculate acculturation has much to do with the study findings,stating in conclusion that Hispanics residing in the U.S. for a longer time may be less likely to recognize overweight and obesity as abnormal, but rather consider it an acceptable feature.
Language was also found to be a hurdle regarding CVD risk; Spanish-speaking and bilingual Hispanics were even less likely to be able to identify facts about CVD when compared to those who primarily spoke English.
“Persistently low CVD awareness poses continuing challenges for Hispanic women, health care professionals, and public health officials,” stated the report.
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.
Focused attention to Hispanic women, including those who are overweight and obese and those who speak primarily Spanish, provides an opportunity to broaden the scope to improve CVD knowledge and to transform current behaviors.
Originally published on VOXXI as Hispanic women less aware of cardiovascular risks of being overweight
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that "Hispanic women were significantly less likely than non-Hispanic whites to incorrectly assess their body weight." In fact, Hispanic women were less likely to correctly asses their body weight.