Being Latina IS a risk factor for heart disease, despite new study

Every February I see women put on red dresses, fix up their hair and band together.

No, I'm not talking about going out with the girls if you're single on Valentine's Day. I'm talking about the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women initiative that hopes to educate women about heart health at any age and is particularly active during February's Heart Health Month.

I've been lucky enough that my family is, for the most part, healthy (knock on wood). Nobody has diabetes, my dad gave up smoking a long time ago and only a few people have high blood pressure that they're taking care of. But I'm a stickler for knowing what's going on in your body, keeping a healthy diet (since research shows time and again how important this is) and being knowledgeable of the risk factors for any major disease.

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That's why I was surprised by a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found age, gender and ethnicity have nothing to do with your cardiovascular destiny. Instead, only risk factors determine your chances of getting heart disease.

Um, really? I'm going to have to call BS on that one.

Researchers analyzed data from 18 studies involving more than 250,000 men and women from different ethnic backgrounds. That all sounds great, but there's a flaw in the plan. They mention that high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes are the major risk factors for heart disease. But if my ethnicity has nothing to do with heart disease, what about the fact that Type 2 diabetes is incredibly common among Latinos, thanks to our love of fried and fattening ingredients in our food?  

And what about high blood pressure?  Some of the factors that lead to it are being overweight, lack of physical activity, and too much salt in the diet—all things common in our culture. So I'd like to ask the authors of the study to go back to the drawing board because, to me, if being a particular age, gender or ethnicity makes you more likely to have the risk factors, then you're more likely to be affected by heart disease.

As a Latina, what are the heart disease factors that you most watch out for? Do you agree with the study?

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Topics: diseases  latino health  health care  womens health