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Heart Health Among LGBTQ Adults: The Unique Link That’s Causing Concern

In this video, learn the possible causes for poor heart health among people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.

Lauren Smith
Written by Lauren Smith | Reviewed by Sudha Parashar, MD
Updated on January 17, 2022

In 2015, the American Psychological Association (APA) published an insightful report about the health impact of discrimination. According to the report, groups facing discrimination in the United States experience higher stress levels and face greater health challenges.

Americans who identify as LGBTQ are no exception. Recent research has found a concerning link between poor heart health and LGBTQ adults.

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults have a higher risk of having markers of poor heart health, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, according to a 2018 study from Circulation journal. High blood pressure increases the risk of many conditions, including heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and vascular dementia.

Furthermore, another 2019 study from Circulation found that transgender men and women were two to four times more likely to experience a heart attack, compared to cisgender men and women.

So what’s the deal?

LGBTQ individuals can face many unique obstacles and stressors. Starting as teenagers, many may face bullying or harassment that continues into adulthood. While some individuals may have great family support, others may lack the love, safety, and care of an accepting family. LGBTQ individuals may also face discrimination in the workplace, or while trying to marry or become parents.

As a result, LGBTQ individuals are almost twice as likely to have anxiety or depression as heterosexuals. Mental illness can be devastating to deal with on its own, but anxiety and depression can also lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits that can hurt physical health as well.

For example, people with mental illnesses are more likely to smoke cigarettes, use drugs, abuse alcohol, skip exercise, and eat an unhealthy diet (especially one high in dietary fat, refined carbs, and sodium). All of these unhealthy habits can have a negative effect on heart health. For example, here are the health risks of a high-salt diet.

But that’s not all: Some LGBTQ adults worry about discrimination by their doctors. This may lead them to avoid their crucial annual visits or delay seeing a doctor despite problematic symptoms.

Individuals can control their other risk factors—such as diet and exercise—to improve their own heart health; however, improving mental and physical health among LGBTQ adults is a public health concern that requires commitment from everyone. Making health spaces more LGBTQ-friendly and dismantling homophobia and transphobia in the United States are just as important.

References

2015 Stress in America: the impact of discrimination. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. (Accessed on January 18 , 2022  at https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2015/impact.)

Alzahrani T, Nguyen T, Ryan A, Dwairy A, McCaffrey J, Yunus R, Forgione J, et al. Cardiovascular disease risk factors and myocardial infarction in the transgender population. Circulation. 2019 Apr 1;12. ( Accessed on January 18 , 2022 at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30950651/ )

View All References (4)

More attention should be paid to heart health of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults, study suggests. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association, 2018. (Accessed on January 18 , 2022 at https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/10/18/more-attention-should-be-paid-to-heart-health-of-lesbian-gay-and-bisexual-adults-study-suggests.)

Saxena A, Rubens M, Das S, Rajan T, Grandhi G, Arias L, et al. Abstract P001: LGB health disparities: examining the status of cardiovascular health from the 2011-2012 NHANES survey. Circulation. 2018 Mar 20;137. ( Accessed on January 18 , 2022 at (https://www.healthination.comhttp://Saxena A, Rubens M, Das S, Rajan T, Grandhi G, Arias L, et al. Abstract P001: LGB health disparities: examining the status of cardiovascular health from the 2011-2012 NHANES survey. Circulation. 2018 Mar 20;137.)

Transgender men and women may have higher heart attack risk. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association, 2019. (Accessed on January 18 , 2022 at https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/04/05/transgender-men-and-women-may-have-higher-heart-attack-risk.)

Understanding anxiety and depression for LGBTQ people. Silver Spring, MD: Anxiety and Depression Association of America. ( Accessed on January 18 , 2022 at https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/understanding-anxiety-and-depression-lgbtq )

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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