National study finds self-perceived social status may affect Latinos’ cardiovascular health


New research, published by the Journal of the American Heart Association, examines the correlation between migration and the behavior of Latinos, focusing on the impact of a sense of self-perceived prestige and accomplishment on their health.

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Fifteen thousand Latino adults in the United States participated in the first of its kind study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. The adults in the study lived in San Diego, Chicago, New York and Miami and ranged in age from 18 to 74.

“This study makes it easier to understand aging among Latinos,” said lead author Lissette Piedra, a professor of social work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Piedra spent four years on this study, which she called “uncharted territory” because there has never been such extensive research on the health of Latinos. Fourteen other researchers were also part of it.

Study participants were asked to rank themselves on a social scale relative to other people in the United States. The levels range from one to ten and relate to indicators such as education, work and social connectedness.

The study suggests that Latinos with a high level of education in their country, but who cannot pursue a career in the United States because of their language or their degrees, showed low markers of cardiovascular health. On the contrary, when study participants thought they had achieved prosperity in their new jobs and lifestyles, their health improved.

The researchers compared this data to lifestyle habits and found that the higher the score, the more likely Latinos were to lead healthy lives.

Some of the cardiovascular diseases linked to self-perceived lower social status are high blood pressure, inadequate cholesterol and glucose levels, heart attacks or strokes.

But if a person ranks higher in their self-perception, the study suggests they’re more likely to be smoke-free, active and social, all of which contribute to a healthy lifestyle. better cardiovascular health.

Latinos who thought their social status was higher were more likely to have ideal scores on body mass index, physical activity, and fasting blood sugar.

“We don’t know how subjective perception works in the brain,” Piedra said. “But we know that humans, by nature, make a lot of comparisons,” Piedra said.

Piedra says her study can also help states like New Hampshire, which has seen a new wave of immigration, providing more community services in Spanish.

“New Hampshire has seen a growth in its Latino population, but there’s not a great sense of community like in New York or Miami,” Piedra said. “Anything you can do to establish co-ethnic places like bodegas, churches, and community centers can impact these internal medical responses.”

Piedra notes that understanding how subjective markers versus goals affect health can be a game-changer in how physicians and providers treat Latino patients and their communities.

If the relationship is better understood, Piedra says “[medical staff] They can be more attentive to ask how someone is feeling and refer them to a specialist or counselor in time,” she said.

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