Black Sexual-Minority Women Have Lower Heart Health Scores

(HealthDay News) — For sexual-minority (SM) females, cardiovascular health (CVH) varies across race and ethnicity, according to a study published online May 1 in JAMA Network Open.

Nicole Rosendale, M.D., from the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues used the American Heart Association Life’s Essential 8 measure to examine differences in CVH at the intersection of race, ethnicity, and sexual identity. The cross-sectional study used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007 to 2016. The primary outcome was overall CVH score, which is the unweighted mean of eight CVH metrics.

The sample included 12,180 adults. The researchers found that Black, Hispanic, and White SM female adults had lower overall CVH scores compared with their heterosexual counterparts in analyses adjusted for age, survey year, and socioeconomic status (β = −3.2, −5.9, -and −3.3, respectively). For female adults of other race and ethnicity and for SM male adults of any race and ethnicity, there were no statistically significant differences seen compared with heterosexual counterparts.

“This study highlights the importance of incorporating intersectionality into CVH health equity studies and interventions,” the authors write. “Tailored interventions to improve the CVH of SM individuals, particularly Black and Hispanic SM female individuals, are needed.”

Abstract/Full Text

Black, sexual minority women and heart health

Black women face a unique double jeopardy when it comes to cardiovascular health. They are disproportionately affected by heart disease compared to white women, and research suggests that LGBTQ+ individuals may also have a higher risk of cardiovascular issues [3, 1]. This can be a complex issue, but understanding the factors at play and taking proactive steps is crucial for Black, queer women to prioritize their heart health.

Understanding the Risks

Black women are more likely to experience underlying conditions that contribute to cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Socioeconomic factors also play a role. Systemic racism and discrimination can lead to chronic stress, limited access to quality healthcare, and unhealthy living environments, all of which can negatively impact heart health.

For LGBTQ+ individuals, the picture is still emerging. Studies suggest that sexual and gender minorities may experience higher rates of traditional risk factors like smoking, unhealthy weight, and mental health struggles. Additionally, transgender women undergoing hormone therapy may face changes in blood pressure that require monitoring.

There are steps that Black, sexual minority women can take to mitigate these risks. Here are some key areas to focus on:

Regularly monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Early detection and treatment of these conditions can significantly reduce your risk of CVD. Talk to your doctor about how often you should be screened.

Maintain a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats. Aim for regular physical activity, even if it’s just starting with brisk walking most days of the week.

Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other risk factors. Find healthy ways to manage stress.

Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your heart health. There are many resources available to help you quit, talk to your doctor about developing a smoking cessation plan.

Social isolation can negatively impact health. Build a strong support network of friends, family, or LGBTQ+ community organizations. Having a sense of belonging and people you can rely on can be a source of strength and motivation to prioritize your health.

Feeling comfortable discussing your health concerns with your doctor is crucial. Seek out a health care provider who is culturally competent and understands the unique challenges faced by Black women and LGBTQ+ individuals.

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