Public Release: 

Rate of heart disease risk factors vary across Hispanic/Latino background groups

San Diego State University

SAN DIEGO - (Monday, November 5, 2012) - Heart disease risk factors are widespread among Hispanic/Latino adults in the United States, with 80 percent of men and 71 percent of women having at least one risk factor for heart disease, according to a San Diego State University study funded by the National Institutes of Health. These percentages are much higher than the general population, where approximately 49 percent of adults have at least one major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Findings from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL), which will be published in the, Nov. 7, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), shows that the prevalence of risk factors varies across Hispanic/Latino background groups, with some groups, particularly those with Puerto Rican background, experiencing high rates of heart disease risk factors compared to other groups.

Participants who are more "acculturated" (born in the United States or lived in the United States for 10 years or longer and preferred English vs. Spanish) were significantly more likely to have three or more risk factors. Those individuals self-reported higher rates of heart disease and stroke. Individuals with lower education or incomes were also significantly more likely to have multiple risk factors.

Findings from this phase of the study include self-reported information on heart disease and stroke and clinically measured risk factors. The study team will continue to follow participants to learn how risk factors change over time and how they influence the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

"Clinicians now have more data to understand the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors in Hispanic/Latino communities," said Greg Talavera, MD, MPH, professor in the Graduate School of Public Health at SDSU and principal investigator for the HCHS/SOL Field Center. "For example, here in San Diego the majority of Hispanic/Latinos are of Mexican background and the study found that the prevalence of diabetes was generally higher compared to other Hispanic/Latino background groups."

"Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Hispanic/Latino people in the United States; however, prior research has underestimated the burden of heart disease risk factors in Hispanic/Latino populations," said Larissa Avilés-Santa, MD, MPH, project officer for HCHS/SOL, Division of Cardiovascular Sciences in the NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which supported the study. "Additionally, previous studies on heart disease risk factors among Hispanics/Latinos have mainly involved Mexican-American participants, or have considered Hispanics/Latinos as a single group."


HCHS/SOL is the first to examine the prevalence of heart disease risk factors--high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, and smoking--within a large, diverse Hispanic/Latino population. The study also looked at the association between acculturation and socioeconomic status (education and income) with heart disease risk factors, and self-reported heart disease and stroke.

The HCHS/SOL is a multi-center, prospective, population-based study that included over 16,000 Hispanic/Latino adults of different backgrounds--including Cuban, Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Central American, and South American--between the ages of 18 and 74 years.

Participants, collaborators and sponsorships

These participants were recruited from randomly selected households in four U.S. communities: Bronx, N.Y.; Chicago, Ill.; Miami, Fla.; and San Diego, Calif. They underwent an extensive clinical exam and assessment, and also answered questionnaires about their personal and family medical history, diet, physical activity, cigarette smoking, education and income status, and acculturation (including years of residence in the United States, immigration generational status, and language preference).

Findings are based on data that were collected from participants between March 2008 and June 2011.

HCHS/SOL activities were carried out by more than 250 staff members at four field centers affiliated with SDSU, Northwestern University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and the University of Miami, with a coordinating center at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

HCHS/SOL is sponsored by the NHLBI and six other institutes and offices of the NIH, including the National Institute on Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.

More information

For more information or to arrange an interview with an HCHS/SOL San Diego Field Center spokesperson, please contact Barbara Rodriguez, Community Relations Coordinator at 619-548-3122 (


The NHLBI website has information and resources, in both English and Spanish, about heart and vascular diseases:

About San Diego State University

San Diego State University is the oldest and largest higher education institution in the San Diego region. Since it was founded in 1897, the university has grown to offer bachelor's degrees in 89 areas, master's degrees in 78 areas and doctorates in 21 areas (Ph.D., Ed.D., Au.D., and DPT). SDSU's approximately 31,000 students participate in an academic curriculum distinguished by direct contact with faculty and an increasing international emphasis that prepares them for a global future. For more information, visit

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