Awareness is the First Step

Nearly half of hispanics unaware they have high cholesterol; less than a third treated.

Nearly half of Hispanic adults were unaware they have high cholesterol, and less than a third receive any kind of treatment for it, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Hispanics are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in America, with 52 million among the U.S. population. Yet their awareness and management of high cholesterol lags behind other ethnic groups.

Researchers reviewed data from 16,415 Hispanics ages 18 to 75. They found:

  • 49.3 percent were not aware that they had high cholesterol levels. Of those who were aware, only 29.5 percent received treatment.
  • High cholesterol was more common among men than women, 44 percent vs. 40.5 percent. However, men had lower rates of cholesterol treatment compared with women, 28.1 percent vs. 30.6 percent.
  • 40 percent of participants were obese, 25 percent had high blood pressure and 17 percent had diabetes.
  • Younger adults, women, the uninsured, those with lower income, and more recent immigrants were less likely to have high cholesterol controlled.
  • Hispanics born in the United States were more likely to be unaware of their high cholesterol compared with foreign-born Hispanics.

“Many Hispanics have high cholesterol, approximately 45 percent, probably due to a mix of genes and diet,” said Carlos J. Rodriguez, M.D., study lead author and an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“What’s more surprising is the lack of awareness, treatment and control. That needs to change since awareness is the first step in prevention,” he said.

In this study, treatment was effective in 64 percent of those treated, indicating that awareness and management can work in lowering cholesterol levels.

“Lack of awareness is a problem with roots at different levels in Hispanics: access to care and patient/provider difficulties such as language barriers or cultural insensitivity may further contribute to these gaps,” Rodriguez said.

“Heart disease remains an equal opportunity threat to the health of everyone; no person is immune. If we are to continue our record of success in reducing the burden of heart disease, we will need to broaden our target for risk-factor reduction,” said American Heart Association spokesperson Clyde W. Yancy, M.D., chief of cardiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a former AHA president.

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