Pride at Heart: Join the American Heart Association and Volunteer at NYC PrideFest 2018

June 1, marks the beginning of Pride Month. As many of you know, Pride is particularly special here in Manhattan because we’re home to the Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 riots that were a tipping point for the movement across the country, and which are marked by Pride every June. The purpose of this month is to celebrate our LGBTQ+ community, honor our history, and continue fighting for equality.

The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. The last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” but the actual day was flexible. In major cities across the nation, the “day” soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally and internationally.

According to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2018, lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adults are more likely to have poor cardiovascular health, in part due to stigma. The study also underscores the need for further research about inequitable health outcomes related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Anshul Saxena, the study’s lead author and a biostatistician at Baptist Health South Florida in Miami, said the findings underscore the need for primary care doctors — the first line of defense in disease prevention — to do more to help their LGB patients improve their cardiovascular health.

Saxena said part of the problem may be that LGB adults often worry about how their primary care doctors will treat them. A more welcoming health care environment, the researcher said, “may allow lesbian, gay and bisexual patients to feel better understood or willing to disclose [health concerns] and subsequently improve their care and health outcomes.”

Dr. Billy A. Caceres, a practicing nurse and postdoctoral research fellow at Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City, said the results of the new study confirm previous findings that LGB young adults are more susceptible to heart disease and stroke than their straight peers.

Caceres, who was not involved in the study presented Tuesday, is the lead author of a 2017 review article of studies that looked at cardiovascular disease risk among sexual minority adults. The review found lesbian and bisexual women were more likely than gay and bisexual men to engage in unhealthy behaviors that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, LGB adults were more likely than heterosexuals to use tobacco, have poor mental health, use illegal drugs and be overweight.

Saxena and his colleagues are now looking at survey data from more recent years to get a better grasp of heart disease and stroke risk among LGB adults.

Caceres said adding data to the new analysis that goes beyond just the 2011-2012 survey could shed more light on the reasons why LGB adults have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. He also said it would be important for the researchers to look at each group (lesbian, gay, bisexual) individually because “the disparities in this population potentially aren’t uniform.”

Beyond informing physicians about the health risks of LGB patients, Caceres said these findings have implications for heart disease and stroke awareness campaigns targeted to LGB communities around the country.

“We don’t have anything that really focuses on cardiovascular health in LGB people,” said Caceres.  “And really, what would that look like? And what are the implications of having that type of public health campaign? Would it deter people from engaging in certain health behaviors?”

Ultimately, he said, “I think that the larger message is that a lot of our questions about this population are really unanswered.”

Study Highlights

  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults were less likely than heterosexuals to have ideal cardiovascular health, according to preliminary research.
  • LGB adults were 36 percent less likely to have ideal cardiovascular health, based on seven leading risk factors, including smoking, body-mass index, physical activity, diet, blood cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.
  • These preliminary findings underscore the importance of reducing cardiovascular risks among LGB adults, although additional research is necessary.
  • We developed an infographic to help raise awareness about health disparities in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (or Questioning) – LGBTQ – community.

Join us at PrideFest this summer to celebrate the LGBTQ community and talk with hundreds of people about how to stay healthy and advocate for healthier communities.

When: Sunday, June 24 from 11 A.M. – 6 P.M. (shift sign-up will be provided closer to the event; we do not expect participants to volunteer the full day)

Where: On Hudson St between Abingdon Square and W 14th St

Contact: Alicia Johnson,

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