WomenHeart hit the road during February and March 2014, traveling to Burlington stores from coast to coast for the Heart of Style Tour. While the Tour did involve fun and fashion, it had a particularly serious purpose: to provide free heart health screenings to women in 35 cities in the United States and Puerto Rico and, even more importantly, to educate the women we met on the risk factors for heart disease by distributing free information about women's heart health in both Spanish and English.
The screening results were sobering: of the 1,617 women who received heart health screenings through the national Tour revealed that, on average, Hispanic-American women are physically inactive and have body mass index (BMI) in the obese range – both leading risk factors for heart disease. Hispanic-American women represented 53% of all women screened throughout the Heart of Style Tour, an event that was created by WomenHeart and sponsored by Burlington Stores as part of a nationwide effort to raise awareness among Hispanic American women about their risk for heart disease – the leading cause of death in women.
Additionally, nearly half of the Hispanic women who were screened – 41% – said they do not know how to recognize the signs of heart attack in women, and 62% stated they were surprised by the results of their heart health screening. This is alarming in light of their elevated risk factors for heart disease.
The Surgeon General’s Physical Activity Guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days/week, and the vast majority of the Hispanic-American women screened – 67% – said they exercise either once or twice a week, or not at all, failing to meet the Surgeon General's guidelines. Additionally, the average Body Mass Index (BMI) of the Hispanic-American women who were screened is 42, placing them in the obese BMI category. The upper limit for a healthy BMI is 25, and a BMI of 30 or more falls in the obese category.
“Hispanic-American women screened through the Heart of Style Tour are at increased risk for heart disease,” said Lisa M. Tate, Chief Executive Officer of WomenHeart. “They are burdened by obesity and physical inactivity, which are two of the major risk factors for heart disease, yet their awareness about heart disease is low. This points to an urgent need to educate Hispanic-American women about their risk factors for heart disease and encourage them to make lifestyle changes to manage their risks,” she added.
The screenings reveal that the obesity epidemic is prevalent among Hispanic-American women. The Hispanic-American women who said they were surprised by the results of their screenings had an average BMI of 36, slightly lower than the BMI of the Hispanic-American women who said they were not surprised by the results, but still placing them in the obese category.
The average blood pressure reading of the Hispanic-American women who were screened is 126/78 – which is only slightly higher than the optimal blood pressure reading of 120/80. 69% of them said they had their blood pressure checked recently, i.e., within the last 6-12 months. The vast majority of them – 73% – reported low or average stress in their daily lives, and only 12% of them said they are smokers. However, these encouraging results are overshadowed by the fact that more than one third of the Hispanic-American women who were screened –36% – were not aware that 1 out of every 3 women in the U.S. has high blood pressure until they visited the Heart of Style Tour, and one third –31% – said that they did not know the risk factors for heart disease until they visited the Heart of Style Tour.
Among all 1,617 women who were screened, 73% said they had their blood pressure checked within the last 6-12 months, 72% reported low or average stress in their daily lives, and only 14% said they smoke. However, the majority – 58% – said they only exercise once or twice a week, or not at all, putting them at increased risk for heart disease.
The Heart of Style Tour screening results show that Hispanic-American women have an elevated risk for heart disease, and also that all women have some risk factors for heart disease. These results point to the need for increased awareness about heart disease among Hispanic-American women and among all women, to help them reduce their risk factors and live heart healthy lives.