10/09/2014 05:46 pm ET Updated Dec 09, 2014

Cardiovascular Disease Still Has a Tight Hold on Nuestra Comunidad - Our Hispanic Community

By: Eduardo Sanchez

Promising statistics released this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that we continue to make significant progress addressing heart disease and stroke. Over the past 50 years, the death rate from heart disease has dropped about 50 percent overall. That is tremendous. But we should not forget that when we break down the numbers, cardiovascular disease still has a tight hold on nuestra comunidad - our community.

Among Hispanics, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death.

Hispanics are twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to suffer a stroke before age of 60 and are more likely to be hospitalized because of heart attacks. In immigrant Hispanic communities, the risk for obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure - all risk factors for heart disease - increases the longer immigrants live in the United States.

Hispanics are less aware of their risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and their own personal risk factors than whites in the United States. In women, for example, the statistics are of concern. .

• Only one in three Hispanic women knows heart disease is their No. 1 killer.
• Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women.
• Only three in 10 Hispanic women say they have been informed they are at a higher risk.

How do we remedy this? We must remember how important it is that health information and medical care be culturally tailored to meet the needs of all our varied communities.

For Hispanics, the American Heart Association recommends an increase in education programs in Latino communities, more Spanish-speaking physicians and Spanish-speaking clinical care team members, and a standardization of health research, electronic records and other surveillance systems that takes into account Hispanic subgroups based on country of origin.

Yes, we are pleased that the work of so many for so long means that today more abuelitos and abuelitas can enjoy and be enjoyed by the grandchildren. But we can do better among Latinos, the largest minority group in the United States, by doing what works to improve awareness and motivate action in a culturally competent manner. Addressing the cardiovascular health of all minority populations in the United States, will help improve the health of the entire country. In the end, we are that. We are all part of the same comunidad.

Dr. Eduardo Sanchez is deputy chief medical officer at the American Heart Association.