Quest for Greener Pastures Brings Health Risks

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The United States has long been a magnet for immigrants seeking employment and a better, safer life, despite the challenges and stress that are often part of the transition. But the longer they are here, the more likely it becomes that immigrants will assimilate in ways that are actually harmful to their heart health, writes Assistant Professor Yvonne Commodore-Mensah, PhD, RN, with colleagues in “Length of Residence in the United States Is Associated with a Higher Prevalence of Cardiometabolic

Risk Factors in Immigrants: A Contemporary Analysis of the National Health Interview Survey.”

In an ethnically diverse sample of immigrants, those residing in the U.S. for more than a decade were more likely to be diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes, and be overweight/obese. This may be attributed to the adoption of such unhealthy behaviors as poor diet, diminished physical activity, and smoking. “Dietary acculturation—shifts from traditional diets of vegetables, meats, and whole grains to highly processed, high-fat, and high-sugar foods that are popular and readily available in the US—occurs when immigrants migrate to the US.”

Interventions must be tailored to specific immigrant groups, the authors say, and should include screening for cardiometabolic risk factors and education on healthier diet and lifestyle choices. “Future longitudinal studies of diverse immigrant groups may provide crucial information on which socioeconomic, behavioral, environmental, and epigenetic factors contribute to cardiometabolic risk in immigrants to inform the development of culturally tailored interventions.”

Publication: Journal of the American Heart Association

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