LGB adults have poor cardiovascular health compared to heterosexual counterparts

Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults are likely to have poor cardiovascular health compared to heterosexual counterparts, according to findings presented March 20 at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Lifestyle conference in New Orleans.

"If confirmed in other studies, our results point towards a disproportionately higher risk for cardiovascular disease among sexual-minority populations," said lead author Anshul Saxena, MPH, PhD, with Baptist Health South Florida in Miami, and colleagues.

Researchers collected data from more than 2,400 adults who participated in the 2011-2012 National Health Examination and Nutrition Survey. Of the study cohort, 95 percent identified as heterosexual and 5 percent identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Questions related to the management of cardiovascular health including blood pressure and blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, physical activity and smoking habits. Blood results was collected.

The researchers categorized each study subject as having “ideal,” “intermediate,” or “poor” cardiovascular health using the Life’s Simple 7 lifestyle changes —managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, reducing blood sugar, getting active, eating healthier foods, losing weight and not smoking.

Of the adults aged 20 to 49, 60 percent of heterosexuals, 56.2 percent of bisexuals and 45 percent of the gay and lesbian group had intermediate or ideal cardiovascular health.

The majority of homosexual or bisexual adults in the same age range, 55 percent and almost 44 percent, respectively, exhibited poor cardiovascular health. Researchers noted 39.9 percent of heterosexuals exhibited poor cardiovascular health.

Saxena said smoking habits and the management of blood glucose were two areas where fewer people in the LGB population were in ideal health.

The findings highlight the need for primary care physicians to do more for LGB patients’ cardiovascular health.

Saxena believes the problem partly stems from the fact that LGB adults may be concerned with how primary care physician will interact with them. He believes a more welcoming healthcare environment would allow them to feel “better understood or willing to disclose health concerns and subsequently improve their care and health outcomes.”

The researchers are now looking at recent survey data to better understand heart disease and stroke risk among LGB adults.