Hispanics are one of the fastest growing minorities in the United States, representing more than 16 percent of the country’s population, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
A 2009 Gallup poll found that 41.7 percent of Hispanics in the country, age 18 and over, lacked health insurance, compared to the national average of 16 percent and 11.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
Three in 10 Latinos are uninsured, according to a more recent report from the Department of Health and Human Services. This translates into bigger challenges when it comes to health prevention and intervention, which in turn lead to higher prevalence of chronic diseases.
The most common conditions affecting Hispanics in the U.S. include, in order of death toll, heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke, diabetes, chronic liver disease, chronic lower respiratory disease, homicide, perinatal conditions, and influenza/pneumonia.
- Heart disease
Heart disease is the board phrase used to describe an array of diseases and conditions affecting the heart. The Mayo Clinic states the phrase is often used interchangeably with cardiovascular disease; however, cardiovascular disease tends to refer more to conditions affecting blood vessels.
According to the most recent information from HHS, Hispanics are less likely to suffer from heart disease than non-Hispanic whites; however, high rates of obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, and tobacco use keep heart disease as a leading killer among the Hispanic population.
Approximately 21 percent of annual Hispanic deaths are related to heart disease.
Prevention means maintaining a healthy weight and eating a well-balanced diet.
Cancer can affect almost any part of the body, and is classified by the National Library of Medicine as uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. No one is certain what causes cancer, though genetics and exposure to external factors may be to blame.
The most common cancers among Hispanics include breast, colon/rectum, liver, lung, melanoma, prostate, stomach, and uterine/cervix. Of those, the leading cause of cancer deaths for Hispanic men is lung cancer (24 percent), with breast cancer topping the list for Latinas (15 percent).
Overall, cancer deaths are responsible for approximately 20 percent of deaths in the U.S. Hispanic community annually.
While there is no way to completely prevent certain forms of cancer, some conditions, such as melanomas, can see a decreased incidence through the use of preventative methods such as diet, sunscreen and tanning salon avoidance. Diet rich in antioxidants and an active lifestyle have also been found to help prevent major diseases such as cancer.
- Unintentional injuries
Unintentional injuries are classified as those related to uncontrollable circumstances such as fires or car accidents. While both adults and children are affected, Hispanic adolescents are one of the groups most at risk.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report 67 percent of all deaths in children between the ages of 5 and 19 were considered unintentional injuries, with 68 percent of those deaths related to motor vehicle accidents.
Decreasing driver distraction and never driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs are all advised.
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is suddenly interrupted or reduced. Without proper oxygen flow, brain tissue begins to die in what is known as a stroke.
Strokes are considered largely preventable because decreased blood flow is related to a build-up of plague in the blood vessels. Obesity, high cholesterol and smoking are significant risk factors for this condition.
While the risk of stroke for Hispanics is between that of African-Americans and non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics are more likely to die following a stroke due to increased risk factors of inactivity, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity, which complicate the condition.
Stroke prevention include eating a healthy diet, exercising, and closely monitoring blood pressure and illnesses like diabetes. Studies have shown 80 percent of strokes are preventable.
Diabetes can be used to describe a group of diseases that affect the glucose levels in the blood. In every type of diabetes, too much glucose is present in the blood, though the reasons behind the surplus define one form of diabetes or another.
Hispanics in the United States are disproportionately affected by diabetes, with Latinas having a 52.5 percent risk of developing diabetes during their lifetimes and a 45.4 percent risk for Hispanic men.
- Chronic liver disease
Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, also known as scarring of the liver, can be caused by many different issues, including various form of hepatitis. Alcohol abuse, certain medications and genetics can all lead to chronic liver disease.
Hispanic men are 1.7 times more likely to die from liver disease than are non-Hispanic white men, and Hispanic women are 1.8 times more likely to die from the condition than are non-Hispanic white women.
To lower the risk of liver disease, alcohol use should be limited along with the inclusion of a healthy diet and exercise routines. Safe sex practices will help avoid the contraction of some types of hepatitis, which can aid in liver scarring.
- Chronic lower respiratory disease
Chronic lower respiratory disease is composed primarily of three major respiratory ailments: asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Tobacco smoke is one of the primary factors contributing to these diseases, accounting for 80 percent of emphysema cases alone.
In the case of asthma, genetics tend to play an important role in approximately 30-50 percent of cases, with external irritants complicating the condition.
Some Hispanics are at particular risk for these ailments due to poor living conditions is areas with heavy air pollution, and to tobacco use.
Homicide is defined as the killing of one person by another person.
Although not a health condition, for Hispanics in the U.S., homicide is the second leading cause of death for young adults between the ages of 10 and 24.
- Perinatal conditions
Perinatal conditions are circumstances at the time of birth which affect an infant. The phrase does not encompass health issues related to complications during birth related to the mother, but rather issues experienced by the baby shortly after or just before the event.
Infant mortality in the Hispanic population is among the highest in the nation. Among Hispanics in the United States, there are 4.8 to 7.3 deaths out of every 1,000 live births.
The Office of Minority Health indicates Hispanics are twice as likely to begin prenatal care later during pregnancy or not at all, when compared to non-Hispanic whites.
A study from the Utah Department of Health showed a high number of Hispanics skipped prenatal care due mostly to language and cultural barriers and lack of knowledge of the health care system.
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory condition spread by multiple strains of influenza viruses. While many people recover from the flu after a few days, serious complications, such as pneumonia, can make the condition deadly.
During 2011, an estimated 9 million Hispanics in the United States contracted the flu virus. This demographic is at a higher risk, says the CDC, because of low vaccination rates and complicating medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes.
The best way to prevent the flu is to receive the vaccination and practice good hygiene and hand washing. Keeping the immune system strong is also recommended and that can be achieved by cutting on sugars, including fresh vegetables and fruits and having an active lifestyle.
Other issues affecting Hispanics
While the above conditions are the leading causes of death among Hispanics, a number of other major health issues have been cited by the CDC.
Those issues include:
- Mental issues
- COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases)
- Chagas disease
These are some of the main health organizations for Hispanics in the United States:
Top 5 Hispanic health organizations in the U.S.