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Awareness of Cardiovascular Disease and Preventive Behaviors Among Overweight Immigrant Latinas

Koniak-Griffin, Deborah EdD, RN; Brecht, Mary-Lynn PhD

doi: 10.1097/JCN.0000000000000181

Background and Objectives: Low-income Latina women face increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) due to high rates of obesity, diabetes, and other comorbidities. Language barriers, lack of health insurance, and lack of access to preventive health messages may further increase their risk. The purpose of this study was to evaluate knowledge about CVD of overweight, immigrant Latinas who spoke little or no English and participated in an educational intervention.

Methods: Ninety participants completed a CVD knowledge questionnaire before and after 8 educational sessions based upon Su Corazón, Su Vida. The curriculum focused on understanding risk factors of CVD and prevention through heart-healthy diets, physical activity, and weight control. The questionnaire evaluated general CVD knowledge (eg, heart disease is the leading cause of death in women) and prevention measures (eg, physical activity can lower a woman’s risk for getting heart disease). Data were analyzed using generalized estimating equations and correlational statistics.

Results: Participants were middle-aged, overweight Latinas, predominantly of Mexican descent, with low education and acculturation. Baseline knowledge that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women was low. A comparison of preintervention and postintervention scores on the questionnaire showed a significant change (P < 0.001), with means of 7.9 and 9.4, respectively. Scores for individual items correctly answered significantly improved for 9 of the 11 items, including questions about portion control to lose weight, physical activity, overweight, and risk for heart disease. Most participants did not recognize that men and women may experience different symptoms of a heart attack. Knowledge was not significantly related to background characteristics, body mass index, or lifestyle behaviors.

Conclusions: Despite campaigns to increase CVD awareness, many Spanish-speaking, immigrant Latinas remain unaware that heart disease is the leading cause of death. Educational interventions may significantly improve their CVD knowledge; nonetheless, continued cardiovascular health promotion efforts are needed for this population.

Deborah Koniak-Griffin, EdD, RN Professor and Audrienne H. Moseley Endowed Chair, School of Nursing, University of California, Los Angeles.

Mary-Lynn Brecht, PhD Adjunct Professor, School of Nursing, University of California, Los Angeles.

This study was supported by funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (R01HL086931).

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence Deborah Koniak-Griffin, EdD, RN, School of Nursing, University of California, Los Angeles, 700 Tiverton Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90095-6919 (

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