Most people may not consider sexual orientation a risk factor for heart disease — but a recent study suggests that bisexual women may have poorer cardiovascular health (CVH) than heterosexual females.
Researchers analyzed data from 12,180 people with an average age of 39.
About half of those people were female.
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The data was culled from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2007-2016), which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts.
Individuals were each assigned a CHV score from 0 to 100 (100 being the best) based on their dietary habits and physical exams.
The scores were based on the American Heart Association’s measure of ideal heart health in U.S. adults.
A score below 50 indicated “poor” cardiovascular health, 50-79 was considered “moderate” and 80 or higher was “high,” per the AHA website.
Pregnant women and individuals with a history of heart disease were excluded from the study.
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Bisexual females were about half as likely to receive higher heart health scores than heterosexual females, largely due to “nicotine exposure and higher body mass index.”
The researchers also cited several other factors, including added stress, less sleep and a higher risk of diabetes among bisexual women, according to a press release from the Columbia School of Nursing.
Additionally, bisexual men were found to be twice as likely as heterosexual males to have high blood pressure.
Dr. Billy Caceres, an assistant professor at the Columbia School of Nursing, led the study, which was published in JAMA Cardiology.
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Other participating researchers were from Columbia; the University of California, San Francisco; and the Boston University School of Medicine, among others.
It was titled “Differences in Ideal Cardiovascular Health Between Sexual Minority and Heterosexual Adults.”
Online News 72h Digital reached out to the study authors for comment.
The authors of the study noted that more research is needed to determine other factors that might influence cardiovascular health in bisexual females.
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Dr. Dung Trinh, chief medical officer of Irvine Clinical Research and a physician with Memorial Care Medical Group in California, was not involved in the study. But he said he believes that health care providers should consider the unique health needs of different sexual orientations when providing care for cardiac disease.
Bisexual females were about half as likely to receive higher heart health scores than heterosexual females.
“Cardiac health care providers should ask open-ended questions about sexual orientation and gender identity during the patient’s medical history intake to help identify any risk factors,” Dr. Trinh told Online News 72h Digital in an email.
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Dr. Trinh said the potential impact of “discrimination and stigma on the patient’s mental health and overall well-being” may heighten the risk of cardiovascular disease among bisexual females.
“Doctors should screen for mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, that may impact cardiovascular health, especially among LGBTQ+ individuals who face higher rates of mental illness than the general population,” he added.
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Many of the lifestyle factors impacting cardiovascular health — such as smoking status, alcohol consumption, dietary choices and exercise habits — vary based on a person’s cultural background or sexual orientation, said Dr. Trinh.
“It’s important to educate patients on how their sexual orientation may impact their cardiac disease risk factors and to also stress prevention strategies such as healthy eating habits, regular exercise, stress management techniques, and medication adherence if necessary,” he said.
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Additionally, physicians should provide appropriate referrals for community resources or support groups as needed, Dr. Trinh recommends.