Largest-ever Latino health study aims to understand ‘Hispanic paradox’

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    Latino health study

    The Latino health study will collect data on chronic diseases that are prevalent among Hispanics living in the U.S. (Shutterstock)

     

    The National Institutes of Health project based in Chicago, New York City, Miami and San Diego, have kicked off the second face of their Latino health study.

    For the next six years, in the Windy City, the University of Illinois at Chicago Institute for Minority Health Research will manage the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, which is being called the largest-ever prospective health study of Hispanic population in the U.S.

    “The Hispanic/Latino population is growing faster than any other minority group in the U.S., and to better serve their health needs, we need to know where they stand as a whole,” said in a press release Dr. Martha Daviglus, director of the UIC Institute for Minority Health Research and principal investigator of the Chicago field center. “This study lets us see that big picture. “

    Overall, according to the press release, the entire Latino health study will include more than 16,400 adults between the ages of 18 and 74 ranging in backgrounds – Cuban, Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Central American and South American.

    The first phase of the study took place already from 2008 through 2012, with the Chicago field center collecting baseline health data on 4,136 participants. Each baseline examination took seven to eight hours and assessed lifestyle-related risk factors for cardiovascular, pulmonary, liver, kidney and other diseases, as well as demographic, socioeconomic and sociocultural data and other factors that may influence disease risk.

    At the time, sleep, dental and hearing evaluations were completed, with participants monitored by yearly phone calls or home visits to assess any changes in their  health.

    “We found that 80 percent of men and 71 percent of women have at least one adverse risk factor for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and smoking,” Daviglus said.

    What’s next for the largest Latino health study

    Latino health study

    Researchers leading the Latino health study want to understand the Hispanic paradox.(Shutterstock)

    Next, Latino health study researchers will reexamine the participants and collect data on chronic diseases – heart disease, diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and gestational diabetes – that are prevalent among Hispanics living in the U.S. This involves an assessment of cardiovascular risk factors, echocardiography and blood and urine tests, along with a questionnaire on demographic, sociocultural and lifestyle factors.

    The genetic information will be analyzed to determine if health and disease findings can be linked to specific gene variants. The Latino health study has an educational and preventive component. Any findings will be shared with the participants and with the public.

    “Everything we find through this study will help us identify risk factors and educate this population as to measures they can take to avoid these risks and improve their health,” Daviglus said.

    The Latino health study also targets the so-called “Hispanic paradox.” Basically, researchers want to understand why despite overall low socioeconomic status and high rates of obesity and diabetes, Hispanic/Latino people in the U.S. tend to live longer than non-Hispanic whites.

    “We want to further investigate whether the ‘Hispanic paradox’ really exists, and if so, what are the factors driving it,” Daviglus said. “Does this population do something else that is protective, or helps offset these negative health issues?”

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