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Gay, lesbian and bisexual adults at higher risk of heart disease, study claims

'Urgent' need to address social factors increasing risk of disease as population becomes more diverse, experts said

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Tuesday 20 March 2018 21:04 GMT
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Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults have a “disproportionately high risk” of heart disease and other cardiac problems, when compared with heterosexuals, according to new research.

The study calls on doctors to do more to tackle health inequality in “sexual minority populations” and experts said there is too little research focused on addressing health inequalities in these minority groups.

Researchers at the Baptist Health South Florida Clinic in Miami focused on seven areas of controllable heart health and found these minority groups were particularly likely to be smokers and to have poorly controlled blood sugar.

“Our results point towards a disproportionately higher risk for cardiovascular disease among sexual-minority populations,” said study lead author Dr Anshul Saxena, a biostatistician.

The research was presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association.

Previous research has shown higher levels of alcohol abuse and stress areas where GPs and primary care doctors should be intervening, independent academics said.

Dr Saxena’s team used survey data from 2,445 adults, as well as interviews and medical exams of a representative cross section of the study population, to track heart health.

Only one in 20 (5 per cent) of the participants identified as being lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Participants were not asked to identify whether they were transgender, so the researchers said the potential health inequality could be even greater.

While family history of heart disease and age are uncontrollable risk factors for heart disease, the other areas where heart health was measured, included blood pressure management, cholesterol, physical activity, weight and diet.

It found that across all seven health scores, those who identified as lesbian, gay and bisexual were 36 per cent less likely to be in the healthy range.

Governments needed to do more to monitor health inequalities in these groups, said Professor Wayne Rosamond, chair of the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention panel, after the findings were revealed.

“This preliminary data sheds further light on cardiovascular health disparities. It also indicates a disproportionately higher risk for CVD among sexual minority groups," he said. “We have relatively little research that can assess the health and well-being of sexual minorities and inform culturally-appropriate interventions that target heart disease risks in this population.

He added: “But we do know that LGB adults have an elevated risk for CVD and are more likely to experience negative cardiovascular outcomes compared to heterosexuals. As our population becomes more and more diverse, the urgency to address the social dynamic of cardiovascular disease will only persist.”

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