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Hispanic obesity

Hispanics often obese and at higher cardiac risk

Healthcare providers should take a holistic, family approach to weight management

The first large-scale data on BMI and cardiovascular disease risk factors among US Hispanic/Latino adult populations suggests that severe obesity may be associated with considerable excess risk for cardiovascular diseases. The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“For Hispanics, the obesity epidemic is unprecedented and getting worse," said Dr Robert Kaplan, lead author of the study and professor of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. "Because young adults with obesity are likely to be sicker as they age, and have higher healthcare costs, we should be investing heavily in obesity research and prevention, as if our nation's future depended upon it."

Researchers reviewed data from a study of men (n=6,547) and women (n=9,797) of diverse Hispanic origin in four US cities (Bronx, Chicago, Miami and San Diego). On average the men were aged 40 and women 41. People with Mexican roots were the largest group (about 37 percent of subjects), followed by those with Cuban (20 percent) and Puerto Rican (16 percent) backgrounds.

They found that 18 percent of women and 12 percent of the men had levels of obesity that signal special concern about health risks, as defined by having a BMI>35. In addition, the most severe class of obesity was most common among young adults between 25 and 34 years of age, affecting one in twenty men and almost one in ten women in this age group.

More than half of the severely obese people had unhealthy levels of HDL cholesterol and of inflammation, and some 40 percent had high blood pressure, and more than a quarter had diabetes.

"This is a heavy burden being carried by young people who should be in the prime of life," added Kaplan. "Young people, and especially men who had the highest degree of future cardiovascular disease risk factors in our study, are the very individuals who tend to neglect the need to get regular check-ups, adopt healthy lifestyle behaviours, and seek the help of healthcare providers."

Compared with the women, high blood pressure and diabetes, both risk factors for heart disease and stroke, appeared to be more tightly linked with severe obesity among men.

The findings for younger Hispanic adults, who are in their child-bearing and child-rearing years, suggest to Kaplan that healthcare providers should take a holistic, family approach to weight management. A host of biological and societal factors that affect parents' weight could also affect their children, he said.

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