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The Hispanic Paradox – Live Longer, but…

March 23, 2014
Plain English Version

Hispanic paradox

Hispanics are a thriving, healthy people in the U.S. A recent study showed that Hispanics outlive whites by two years and outlive blacks by seven years.

Nevertheless, almost one-third of Hispanics age 18 to 44 has at least one risk factor for heart disease.

Hispanics are an ethnic group, but they are not all the same. The study looked at health risks of different groups of Latinos in the U.S. and found:

  • High blood pressure – affects about 1 in 3 Cubans and Puerto Ricans; it affects about 1 in 5 South Americans.
  •  Diabetes – affects about 1 in 5 Puerto Ricans; it affects about 1 in 10 South Americans.
  • Obesity – affects about 1 in 2 Puerto Ricans; it affects about 1 in 3 South Americans.
  • Smoking – affects about 1 in 3 Puerto Ricans; it affects about 1 in 10 Dominicans.

The study also found that more than 50% of Hispanic men, and about 40% of women aged 45 to 74 and about 30% of women age 18 to 44; eat five or more fruits and vegetables daily.

The health trends among older Hispanics who have been in the U.S. a long time, and those of younger Hispanics, are beginning to merge. And not in a good way. Both groups tend to reflect American eating habits. The American diet is high in fats, sugars, salts and starches. In both groups of Latinos, the signs of living here are reflected in increasing rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

Other problems follow. Although Hispanics and other groups have about the same rate of hypertension, Hispanics receive less care. This puts them at higher risk for heart disease and stroke.

About 3 in 4 Hispanics in the study knew they had high blood pressure. But only 2 in 3 of those were being treated for it. Compared to whites, much fewer had their hypertension under control.

Lack of health insurance is the most important reason Hispanics get less treatment. This is especially true for people under the age of 65.

What is the Hispanic paradox? Although they seem to have a health edge, Hispanics lose that edge over time due to the American diet and inadequate health care. This is true for the young and the old.

The Los Angeles Daily News                                                                                                                                                                  February 22, 2014


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