Oct. 8 (UPI) — Gender-affirming care may help promote physical activity among transgender people and reduce their risk for heart disease and related complications, according to a scientific statement published Thursday by the journal Circulation.
More research is also needed to better understand the psychological and social stressors that impact the heart health of all LGBTQ people and develop effective care strategies, the authors of the statement said.
“This is particularly important now, at a time when there is increased awareness of health inequities related to unequal treatment and discrimination in the U.S.,” Billy A. Caceres, a co-author of the American Heart Association statement, said in a press release.
“LGBTQ individuals are delaying primary care and preventative visits because there is a great fear of being treated differently, [which] often means receiving inadequate or inferior care because of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Caceres, an assistant professor at the Columbia University School of Nursing.
Assessment and documentation of sexual orientation and gender identity information in electronic health records could provide an opportunity to address specific health concerns for LGBTQ patients, the authors said.
Research suggests that 56% of all LGBTQ adults and 70% of those who are transgender or gender non-conforming experience some form of discrimination from a healthcare professional, including the use of harsh or abusive language, according to the American Heart Association.
Trust toward healthcare professionals still is lacking among many members of the LGBTQ community, and healthcare professionals need more education on how to provide appropriate care for LGBTQ patients, the authors said.
The statement, Assessing and Addressing Cardiovascular Health in LGBTQ Adults, also summarizes existing research on heart health disparities and provides suggestions for improving the care of LGBTQ people.
Although there’s limited information on the heart health of LGBTQ people, there are a few risk factors that “stand out,” the statement authors said.
For example, LGBTQ populations face unique “stressors,” such as family rejection and anxiety over concealment of their sexual orientation or gender identity that may impair their health.
LBGTQ adults in historically underrepresented racial or ethnic groups experience higher poverty levels, insecure housing and fewer healthcare options compared to their white LGBTQ peers, research has shown.
LGBTQ adults are also more likely to report tobacco use than their cisgender heterosexual peers, and transgender adults appear to have lower physical activity levels than their cisgender counterparts, the authors wrote.
And, transgender women may be at increased risk for heart disease due to their use of gender-affirming hormones like estrogen, while transgender women and non-binary persons are more likely to binge drink, the authors said.
Also, lesbian and bisexual women have a higher prevalence of obesity than heterosexual women, according to the authors.
“There is much work to be done to understand and improve the cardiovascular health of LGBTQ adults,” Caceres said.
“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.”