CONTEXT: There are few studies of ethnic differences in cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in older populations.
OBJECTIVES: To examine the association of ethnicity on CVD risk factors, after accounting for socioeconomic status (SES), and to examine health behaviors among those with CVD risk factors.
DESIGN: Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988–1994.
SETTING: Eighty-nine mobile examination centers.
PARTICIPANTS: 700 black, 628 Mexican-American, and 2192 white women and men age 65 to 84 years.
MEASUREMENTS: Ethnicity in relation to type II diabetes mellitus, physical inactivity, abdominal obesity, hypertension, cigarette smoking and non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (non-HDL-C).
RESULTS: After accounting for age and SES, both black and Mexican-American women had significantly higher prevalences of type II diabetes than white women. In addition, black women were significantly more likely to have abdominal obesity and hypertension and to be physically inactive than white women. Black men had significantly higher prevalences of hypertension and physical inactivity than white men. However, black men had lower prevalences of abdominal obesity than white men, and black women had lower prevalences of high non-HDL-C than white women. Among those with CVD risk factors, health behaviors were in need of improvement, especially among Mexican-American women whose primary language was Spanish.
CONCLUSIONS: In this national sample of older women and men, black and Mexican American women and black men were at the greatest risk for CVD. These findings parallel the heightened risk of CVD among younger ethnic minority populations and argue for appropriate primary and secondary prevention programs, modified for the language, cultural, and medical needs of older ethnic minorities.