More study needed on LGBTQ stress and heart health, American Heart Association says

LGBTQ adults face unique stressors that may increase their risk of poorer heart health, but more research is necessary, the American Heart Association said.

Published in the journal Circulation, the statement examines existing research about cardiovascular health disparities among LGBTQ adults and identifies gaps in knowledge.

Unique stressors facing the LGBTQ community include family rejection and anxiety over concealing their sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, trust in healthcare professionals is low among many members of the LGBTQ community, and many report experiencing discrimination from healthcare professionals.

These stressors may “place them at increased risk for poor health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease,” said Billy A. Caceres, PhD, RN, chair of the writing group for the statement and an assistant professor at the Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City.

The LGBTQ community faces specific risk factors with regard to their cardiovascular health. Though existing data is limited, it shows that bisexual men are twice as likely to have high blood pressure as heterosexual men, and lesbian and bisexual women tend to have higher obesity rates than heterosexual women.

More research is needed to understand the full spectrum of LGBTQ heart health and to develop interventions, the heart association said. There is insufficient data on the risk for cardiovascular disease by race and ethnicity and by socioeconomic level for the LGBTQ community.

Including sexual orientation and gender identity information in EHRs could help providers address specific health concerns for LGBTQ patients and enhance data on cardiovascular health of LGBTQ adults, the statement’s authors wrote.

“There is much work to be done to understand and improve the cardiovascular health of LGBTQ adults,” said Dr. Caceres. “We need more robust research that allows us to draw stronger conclusions, as well as initiatives to increase clinicians’ knowledge, thereby improving care and health outcomes for LGBTQ adults.”

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