Better access to care needed to improve LGBTQ+ heart health

At least 20 million LGBTQ+ adults in the United States experience worse heart health compared to their cisgender heterosexual peers, according to a recent statement from the American Heart Association (AHA). Circumstances such as discrimination, barriers to receiving care, and higher levels of smoking, drinking, drug use, and stress can affect heart health.

The statement is a reminder that heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, can affect anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. A study published in April 2019 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes analyzed health survey data from a four-year period to compare rates of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks in transgender men and women with those of cisgender men and women. The researchers found that, on average, transgender people have a higher risk of heart attack than their cisgender counterparts.

“I think there’s a growing recognition that this disparity exists,” says Abha Khandelwal, MD, a clinical associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford Medicine in California.

Early treatment and prevention of heart disease is critical

Philip Chan, MD, associate professor in the department of medicine at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, says fear of discrimination and stigma is a major factor in the LGBTQ+ community.

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