New Report Assesses Cardiovascular Health in LGBTQ Adults

October 8, 2020

Columbia Nursing's Billy Caceres, PhD, recently chaired a group that wrote the first American Heart Association Scientific Statement to address LGBTQ heart health, published Oct. 8 in Circulation.

Billy Caceres, PhD, RN, Columbia University School of Nursing
Billy Caceres

The statement—Assessing and Addressing Cardiovascular Health in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (or Questioning) Adults—examines existing research about  LGBTQ-specific links to cardiovascular health disparities, identifies gaps in the body of knowledge, and provides suggestions for improving cardiovascular research and care of LGBTQ people. 

“LGBTQ individuals are delaying primary care and preventative visits because there is a great fear of being treated differently," Caceres says. "Being treated differently often means receiving inadequate or inferior care because of your sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Among the statement's highlights:

  • More than half (56%) of LGBTQ adults and 70% of those who are transgender or gender non-conforming report experiencing some form of discrimination, including the use of harsh or abusive language, from a health care professional.
  • LGBTQ populations face unique stressors, such as discrimination, family rejection, and anxiety over concealment of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Policy changes within health care education and clinical settings are needed to improve LGBTQ cardiovascular health.

"I think one of the main takeaways of this scientific statement is that we know a little bit about the cardiovascular health of LGBTQ people but there are still many unanswered questions," Caceres says. 

The statement identified areas that require specific cardiovascular health efforts, including the greater use of tobacco among LGBTQ adults compared with their cisgender heterosexual peers and the factors underlying the greater risk of cardiovascular disease among transgender women.

“We need more robust research that allows us to draw stronger conclusions, as well as initiatives to increase clinicians’ knowledge, thereby improving care and health outcomes for LGBTQ adults,” Caceres says.

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Caceres is assistant professor of nursing and a faculty member of the Program for the Study of LGBT Health at Columbia University.

This article was adapted from a press release from the American Heart Association (en español).