Cardiovascular disease risk found to be high among US Hispanics/Latinos

November 09, 2012

Heart disease risk factors are widespread among Hispanic/Latino adults in the United States according to a study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Dr. Jianwen Cai

Dr. Jianwen Cai

The study, titled “Prevalence of Major Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Cardiovascular Diseases Among Hispanic/Latino Individuals of Diverse Background in the United States,” appeared in JAMA’s Nov. 7 issue. The study is the largest ever to examine heart disease risk factors among such a diverse Hispanic/Latino population.

“We found 80 percent of Hispanic/Latino men and 71 percent of the women have at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor,” said Jianwen Cai, PhD, principal investigator of the study’s coordinating center and professor of biostatistics at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Further, the study showed that the prevalence of risk factors varies across Hispanic/Latino populations according to their background. Particularly those of Puerto Rican background showed a less favorable profile of heart disease risk factors compared to other groups.”

The risk factors included smoking, hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes. The study also found that participants who are more acculturated (born in the United States, lived in the United States for 10 years or longer, or preferred using English rather than Spanish) were significantly more likely to have three or more risk factors as well as self-reported heart disease or stroke.

The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) is a multicenter, prospective, population-based study that included 16,415 participants who were recruited from randomly selected households in the Bronx, Chicago, Miami, and San Diego, and who were between 18 and 74 years of age. Data were collected from participants between March 2008 and June 2011. Participating individuals were of Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Central American and South American ethnicity.

Previous studies of these risk factors have focused primarily on participants of Mexican origin or descent. The wider range of ethnicities surveyed provides researchers with even more data on these groups, but it also raises many more questions for future investigation. This expanded sample indicates such risk factors are prevalent among Latino/Hispanic populations in general.

“The HCHS/SOL study establishes a very rich data source for further investigation,” Cai said. “The study is ongoing and we hope to make a significant contribution to improving the health of Hispanic/Latino populations.”

The study is funded by The National Institutes of Health. The full publication can be found online.

Cai says the HCHS/SOL study is the culmination of several years of work by researchers from a variety of areas.

“I’m very proud of the our team at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health that contributed so much to this landmark and historic study,” Cai said. “Building from our core biostatistics department team, we’ve had a large contingent of investigators from the Gillings School of Global Public Health and beyond, including the School of Dentistry. This project has been ongoing for nearly seven years. A great number of CSCC research staff, administrative staff, statisticians, GRAs and undergraduate interns are the unsung heroes who have made this project a success day in and out.”

The Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center (CSCC) served as the study’s data coordinating center. In addition to Cai, co-authors from UNC include Natalia Gouskova, MS, senior biostatistician, from the biostatistics department; and Krista Perreira, PhD, associate professor in public policy. Gerardo Heiss, MD, PhD, Kenan Distinguished Professor of epidemiology, serves as the co-principal investigator for HCHS/SOL Coordinating Center, and Marston Youngblood Jr., MA, MPH, serves as the project director.

Sonia Davis, DrPH, Professor of the Practice of biostatistics and director of the Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center, has high praise for the research team.

“The CSCC is proud to be an integral part of this important public health research,” Davis said. “We expect continued findings from HCHS/SOL to impact public health and medical practice for the U.S. Hispanic/Latino population for years to come. The complexities of this particular study design relied heavily on our faculty and staff’s extraordinary expertise in the design, implementation and analysis of community-based studies, continuing the CSCC’s more than 40-year history at the forefront of public health research projects.”

More information about the HCHS/SOL project is available online.


UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or