Hispanic Heritage Month Draws Attention to Health Disparities, Risks

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Kevin Patrick Allen
Public News Service

DES MOINES, Iowa – In Iowa and across the nation, Hispanic Heritage Month is being celebrated with events commemorating the contributions of U.S. residents who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

But there’s also a health crisis in Hispanic communities.

Of the more than 182,000 Hispanic Americans who live in Iowa, about 4 percent suffer from cardiovascular disease.

Kassi Wessing, communications director for the American Heart Association Iowa chapter, says the data is clear.

“Hispanic populations are at a disproportionate high risk for cardiovascular diseases and stroke,” she states. “That includes risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol.”

Wessing notes that more than half of Hispanic women are unaware that heart disease is their greatest risk.

With Iowa’s overall adult obesity rate of 32 percent, she says spreading the word is the first step toward healthier lifestyles, including getting adequate amounts of exercise and working to reduce cholesterol intake.

Among Hispanics age 20 and older, the Heart Association says 80 percent of men and 76 percent of women are considered to be overweight or obese.

In Iowa, the obesity rate for the Latino population is just under 30 percent.

Wessing says it’s a public health issue, and communities need a greater focus on healthy living options.

“Whether you have access to healthy foods or access to walking and biking, or outdoor recreation,” she states.

Since 2000, Hispanics in the United States have grown from 13 percent of the overall population to 17 percent.