According to the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, a full 14% of Hispanic men and 6% of Hispanic women suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition that prevents proper breathing while sleeping. This condition can be life-threatening as it involves periods of partial or complete airway obstruction while asleep, due to a multitude of different factors.
What is particularly dangerous about sleep apnea is that the sufferer rarely knows they have it. While the general recommendation for a good night’s sleep is anywhere between seven to nine hours, those with OSA can feel like they got adequate sleep but in reality, could be waking up every couple minutes and not know it.
All in all, sleep apnea is related to a host of different health issues including Type 2 diabetes, depression, and obesity. In addition, those with sleep apnea are three times as likely to have heart disease of some kind.
This study has found that Hispanics with obstructive sleep apnea are especially at risk. Their findings have revealed that Hispanics with OSA have a 40% higher chance of developing hypertension, a 50% increased chance of having impaired glucose tolerance, and 90% higher risk of diabetes than other demographics.
These findings are grimmer for Hispanic teens. The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston has found that obesity is so prevalent within Hispanic adolescents that it causes about six times the number of hypertension cases than any other demographic.
In the study, the researchers found that obese Hispanic teenagers were six times as likely to develop hypertension at a young age — representing a ratio of 6:1 — when the results for Caucasian overweight teens was 4:1, obese Asian adolescents were 3:1, and obese African Americans were 2:1.
The study was completed based on analysis from 21,062 adolescents in the Greater Houston area. A high blood pressure screening program was administered to the children at 27 secondary schools between 2000 and 2015. The researchers found that among Hispanic adolescents, the prevalence of high blood pressure and obesity go hand in hand.
“The prevalence of high blood pressure among Hispanic adolescents rises sharply with weight gain,” Joshua Samuels, M.D., M.P.H, the study’s senior author, explains to Science Daily. “Normal weight Hispanic adolescents had the lowest level of high blood pressure among the four groups but obese Hispanic adolescents had the highest.”
For the study, high blood pressure was defined as having blood pressure at or higher than the 95th percentile for three consecutive screenings. Those in the 85th to 94th percentile were considered overweight, and the students in the 95th or higher, obese.
Unfortunately, doctors are unable to determine why Hispanic teens, in particular, suffered such elevated rates. But, they do believe this information is incredibly important for health care providers to use as a way to analyze the multiple health risks Hispanic teens may experience, compared to their patients of different ethnic backgrounds.