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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC Finds Link between Number of Births and Heart Disease Risk Factors in Hispanic/Latina Population

Six researchers at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health are co-authors of a recently published article linking the numbers of times Hispanic/Latina women give birth with their likelihood of developing a specific set of risk factors for heart disease.


[Photo: Dr. Catherine Vladutiu]

The lead author is Dr. Catherine Vladutiu, adjunct assistant professor of epidemiology at UNC.  Co-authors from UNC include Dr. Anna Maria Siega-Riz, professor of epidemiology and nutrition; Dr. Daniela Sotres-Alvarez, research assistant professor of biostatistics; Dr. Alison Stuebe, assistant professor of maternal and child health; Dr. Ai (Andy) Ni, alumnus of the biostatistics department; and Dr. Gerardo Heiss, W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of epidemiology.

The study, “Parity and Components of the Metabolic Syndrome Among U.S. Hispanic/Latina Women: Results from the HCHS/SOL Study,” was published online February 23 in a special issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a journal of the American Heart Association (AHA).

The researchers performed an analysis of 7,467 women, ages 18 to 74, who were part of the Hispanic Community Study/Study of Latinos. The team found that women who had given birth four or more times were the most likely to develop selected metabolic syndrome risk factors.

Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed when a person presents at least three out of a set of five risk factors including abdominal obesity, elevated fasting glucose, low good cholesterol, elevated triglycerides and high blood pressure. All of these factors raise an individual’s risk of heart disease. When they exist in combination, metabolic syndrome reveals a greater chance that an individual will experience cardiovascular problems.

Given these findings, the study stresses the importance of considering the number of births as a risk factor for metabolic and cardiovascular disorders among Hispanic/Latina women.

“Given the expected growth of the Hispanic/Latino population in the United States, preventive action is needed to reduce heart disease risks in this population, especially women,” said Dr. Vladutiu. “Identifying high-risk women based on their pregnancy history provides an opportunity for both primordial and primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

The study was featured in the annual women’s issue of the AHA journal, which focuses on research promoting the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease – the number one cause of death for women in the United States.

“With this issue, we strive to create a future in which a special issue on women’s cardiovascular health is obsolete,” said Dr. Harlan Krumholz, journal editor. “We will know that we have arrived when an abundance of research on the topic of women’s health, that generates knowledge to improve the care and outcomes of a formerly neglected population, is commonplace.”

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