By Chris Hoenig
Photo by Shutterstock
Latina women have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) because of both obesity and lupus, but how they view their bodies is only increasing the potentially deadly nature of the risks.
Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center and the Center for Women’s Health found that Latinas underestimate their body weight at a significantly higher rate than non-Latina white women, increasing the dangers that heart diseasewhich Latina women are already at a greater risk of developing from obesity than non-Latina whiteswill go un- or undertreated.
More than 600 Latina and non-Latina whites were asked to identify themselves as overweight, normal or underweight and choose a silhouette that corresponded with what they believed was their body mass index (BMI), a measurement of height-to-weight ratio. Only 69 percent of Latina women correctly assessed their body weight (compared with nearly 83 percent of non-Latina whites), and nearly half of themincluding 17 percent of obese Latinasunderestimated their weight. Less than 13 percent of non-Latina whitesand none of the obese non-Latinasunderestimated their weight. The same patterns were seen in the silhouette test.
“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 Dr. Elsa-Grace V. Giardina, one of the study’s leaders. “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.”
And greater education will be a key, as the study also revealed that Latina women are less likely than non-Latina whites to recognize the dangers of cardiovascular diseaseit is the leading cause of death in womenand were less likely to correctly identify the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke. Language was determined to be a stumbling block, as Spanish-speaking and bilingual Latinas had more trouble understanding heart disease, its symptoms and risk factors than those who spoke primarily English.
Pop Star Brings Attention to Lupus
Latinas are also at a greater risk than non-Latina whites to develop heart disease and kidney problems as a result of lupus.
The large-scale LUMINA (Lupus in Minorities: Nature versus Nurture) study found that Latinas are two to three times more likely to develop lupus, are diagnosed at a younger age, have more aggressive forms with more serious complications, and are at a greater risk of dying from the disease than non-Latina whites.
The complications and risks Latinas face from lupus has been thrust back into the spotlight after pop star Selena Gomez suddenly cancelled the Australian leg of her world tour over the holidays, reportedly due to a flare up in health issues related to lupus. The 21-year-old singer and actress, who was diagnosed with lupus in her teens, has reportedly been experiencing facial swelling, extreme fatigue, headaches and joint pain.