High incidence of cardiovascular disease (CDV) among Latinas is directly related to a higher risk for metabolic syndrome, says a study headed by Dr. Fatima Rodriguez, internal medicine resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, published in Family Practice News.
While overall age was definitely a factor in metabolic syndrome risk, Rodriguez and her team found Hispanic women between the ages of 30 and 65 had the greatest occurrence of metabolic syndrome when compared to other demographics.
Metabolic syndrome, according to the Mayo Clinic, is the phrase used to describe the combination of factors leading to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
These factors include high blood pressure, increased levels of blood sugar, excessive body fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Experts identify two important risk factors (and symptoms) for metabolic syndrome:
- Thick waist, extra fat tissue around belly and upper body, often found in “apple-shaped” body types.
- Elevated blood sugar and fat levels due to insulin resistance.
For the research, data was collected from a separate study, Sister to Sister, from The Women’s Heart Health Foundation. Information collected from free health screenings in 17 U.S. cities was used to screen more than 18,000 women for hypertension, hyperglycemia, obesity, and dyslipidemia. Cardiovascular risk surveys were also issued to participants, and 7,000 women with complete medical histories were evaluated in-depth.
To meet the criteria of metabolic syndrome, individuals in the study needed to meet the following guidelines as stated by the National Cholesterol Education Program definition: HDL cholesterol below 50 mg/dL; waist circumference of at least 35 inches; systolic blood pressure at least 130 mm Hg, or diastolic blood pressure at least 85mm Hg; triglyceride level of at least 150 mg/dL; pharmacologic treatment for hypertension; or a fasting glucose of at least 110 mg/dL.
Researchers found an overall prevalence of metabolic syndrome for 35 percent of evaluated women; however, Rodriguez states “there was a disproportionate burden for Hispanic womenand black women.”
Forty percent of Hispanic women were classified as having metabolic syndrome compared to 39 percent of blacks, 31 percent of whites, and 29 percent of women who identified themselves as “other.”
The research also revealed most of the metabolic syndrome seen in Latinas was related to abnormal lipid levels, most notably among the youngest participants.
“Many of these women have high triglyceride levels and low HDL levels … and this disparity was most pronounced in young women,” Rodriguez said.
While the study indicates Hispanics are in a high-risk group related to metabolic syndrome, researchers say they were unable to group the women into categories relating to exercise, healthy diet and overall lifestyle, all of which may have contributed to the outcome.
One factor which did become obvious during the testing was the lack of health coverage among Hispanic women.
“One thing that was very interesting in this study was the high rates of lack of insurance for Hispanic women. Alarmingly, almost 65 percent of these women were uninsured and had no insurance whatsoever,” said Rodriguez.
She added, “This suggests these women have little access to the health care setting and a population-based approach would be best for primary prevention.”
Without prevention or intervention, Latinas continue to be at the highest risk even though controlling metabolic syndrome is possible.
Recommendations to prevent and control metabolic syndrome include losing weight by reducing calorie intake (500 to 1,000 fewer calories per day), getting at least 30 minutes of exercise (walking, dancing, swimming) minimum 5 days a week, lowering cholesterol levels, and modifying diet to cut animal-based proteins and/or increase amount of vegetables and fruits. Other lifestyle changes that help to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome include limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding tobacco use altogether.