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Heart disease concern among Hispanic community, even if they don't know it

Cleveland Clinic's heart healthy survey reveals startling data among Hispanics
Posted at 10:52 PM, Feb 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 22:52:29-05

VERO BEACH, Fla. — Heart disease is a real issue in the Hispanic community. The National Hispanic Medical Association reports nearly half of Hispanic men and a third of Hispanic women older than 20 are affected.

Lorena Larez, of Vero Beach, was in San Antonio last October for work. Something abnormal started to happen to her when she was walking up a flight of stairs.

"I was feeling tired, but I decided to keep going," said Larez. "Then I started to feel chest pressure and then chest pain. It radiated to my hands."

As an eye physician by trade, Larez knew the symptoms she was experiencing had to do with her heart.

"My right coronary artery was blocked, 100%," said Larez. "It was having 0% flow and it was at a very high risk."

Lorena Larez, detected heart disease while walking flight of stairs
Lorena Larez says she first detected heart troubles while walking a flight of stairs in San Antonio.

Cleveland Clinic recently conducted its annual heart health survey. It found concerning issues among the Hispanic community. Nearly half of Hispanics nationwide believe there is nothing they can do to limit their risk of developing a heart condition if they have a family history of heart disease. More than one-third of Hispanics said they have never heard of lipoprotein, which high levels of can lead to heart disease.

Dr. Carlos Gonzalez-Lengua, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital, said lack of awareness is a significant issue.

"In part, it could be lack of language barriers, lack of trust, because a doctor doesn't speak Spanish. It's probably half and half," said Gonzalez-Lengua. "We as a medical community got to do our job and go out and talk to our patients in the community."

Larez is recovering well post-surgery. She is keeping active and exercising and has this message.

"Even if the doctor would find out something that is happening in your body, it is better to get it now, get early treatment and avoid the complications," said Larez.

This year, the Cleveland Clinic's 2022 Heart Health survey examined how the pandemic continues to affect heart health. Listed below are a sample of key findings among the Hispanic community:

  • Hispanics are less familiar with the leading causes of heart disease and are less likely to know the risks of high blood pressure, obesity, lifestyle and family history of heart health than the average American.
  • Nearly half of Hispanics (43%) agree that "if I have a family history of heart disease, there is nothing I can do to limit my risk of developing that heart condition" (compared to 34% of the U.S. average).
  • More than one-third of Hispanics (37%) say they have never heard of Lp(a) until now (up from 25% of the U.S. average). 
  • An Lp(a) test measures the level of lipoprotein in your blood. Lipoproteins are substances made from proteins and fats that transport LDL cholesterol through the bloodstream. Studies show that having high levels of a protein called lipoprotein or Lp(a) in your blood is also a risk factor for heart disease and, to a lesser degree, a stroke. 

The NHMA has been addressing these barriers. The association has been working with health professionals to improve heart care in the Hispanic community and has these recommendations:

  1. Improve access to healthcare services targeted at Hispanic patients with cardiovascular disease.
  2. Develop cardiovascular disease prevention programs intended for Hispanic communities.
  3. Develop medical education curriculum about cardiovascular disease among Hispanic patients and also strategies providers can use to advocate for Hispanic patients.