Posted on January 16, 2014

Body Image Puts Latina Women at Risk

Chris Hoenig, DiversityInc, January 16, 2014

Latina women have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) because of both obesity and lupus, but how they view their bodies is only increasing the potentially deadly nature of the risks.

Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center and the Center for Women’s Health found that Latinas underestimate their body weight at a significantly higher rate than non-Latina white women, increasing the dangers that heart disease — which Latina women are already at a greater risk of developing from obesity than non-Latina whites — will go undetected or undertreated.

More than 600 Latina and non-Latina whites were asked to identify themselves as overweight, normal or underweight and choose a silhouette that corresponded with what they believed was their body mass index (BMI), a measurement of  height-to-weight ratio. Only 69 percent of Latina women correctly assessed their body weight (compared with nearly 83 percent of non-Latina whites), and nearly half of them — including 17 percent of obese Latinas — underestimated their weight. Less than 13 percent of non-Latina whites — and none of the obese non-Latinas — underestimated their weight. The same patterns were seen in the silhouette test.

“Education about cardiovascular disease, weight perception and healthy weight are critical steps in addressing the relationship between obesity and the rise in CVD mortality attributed to it,” wrote Dr. Elsa-Grace V. Giardina, one of the study’s leaders. “Focused attention to Hispanic women, including those who are overweight and obese and those who speak primarily Spanish, provides an opportunity to broaden the scope to improve CVD knowledge and to transform current behaviors.”