Gillings researchers find link between number of births and heart disease risk factors in Hispanic/Latina population

March 10, 2016

Six researchers at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health are co-authors of a recently published article linking the numbers of times Hispanic/Latina women give birth with their likelihood of developing a specific set of risk factors for heart disease.

Dr. Catherine Vladutiu

Dr. Catherine Vladutiu

The lead author is Catherine Vladutiu, PhD, adjunct assistant professor of epidemiology at UNC Gillings. Co-authors from the Gillings School include Anna Maria Siega-Riz, PhD, professor of epidemiology and nutrition, Daniela Sotres-Alvarez, DrPH, research assistant professor of biostatistics, Alison Stuebe, MD, assistant professor of maternal and child health, Ai (Andy) Ni, PhD, alumnus of the biostatistics department, and Gerardo Heiss, PhD, W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of epidemiology.

The full study, titled “Parity and Components of the Metabolic Syndrome Among U.S. Hispanic/Latina Women: Results from the HCHS/SOL Study,” was published online Feb. 23 in a special issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a journal of the American Heart Association (AHA).

The researchers performed an analysis of 7,467 women, aged 18 to 74, who were part of the Hispanic Community Study/Study of Latinos. The team found that women who had given birth four or more times were the most likely to develop selected metabolic syndrome risk factors.

Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed when a person presents at least three out of a set of five risk factors including abdominal obesity, elevated fasting glucose, low good cholesterol, elevated triglycerides and high blood pressure. All of these factors raise an individual’s risk of heart disease. When they exist in combination, metabolic syndrome reveals a greater chance that an individual will experience cardiovascular problems.

Given these findings, the study stresses the importance of considering the number of births as a risk factor for metabolic and cardiovascular disorders among Hispanic/Latina women.

“Given the expected growth of the Hispanic/Latino population in the United States, preventive action is needed to reduce heart disease risks in this population, especially women,” said Vladutiu. “Identifying high-risk women based on their pregnancy history provides an opportunity for both primordial and primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

The study was featured in the annual women’s issue of the AHA journal, which focuses on research promoting the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease – the number one cause of death for women in the United States.

“With this issue, we strive to create a future in which a special issue on women’s cardiovascular health is obsolete,” said Harlan Krumholz, MD, editor of the journal. “We will know that we have arrived when an abundance of research on the topic of women’s health, that generates knowledge to improve the care and outcomes of a formerly neglected population, is commonplace.”


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


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