LGBTQ Focus on Heart Disease and Obesity

Heart disease and diseases related to obesity are the leading causes of death in the United States. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTQ) community tend to have higher rates of obesity and heart disease than the general population.

What is heart disease?

The most common type of preventable heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD happens when a sticky substance called plaque builds up in the blood vessels that bring blood to the heart and other parts of the body. As the plaque builds up, the blood vessels become narrower. This makes it harder for blood to flow. Unless treated, CAD can lead to a number of problems, including heart attack and stroke.

Risk factors for heart disease include:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Alcohol use.

What is obesity?

Being overweight means that you weigh more than what is generally considered healthy. If your weight is especially high in relation to your height, we say that you are obese.

Being obese can lead to a number of health problems, including:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Arthritis
  • Stroke.

Why is the LGBTQ community at greater risk?

The LGBTQ community has more risk factors for heart disease than the general population. For example, gay and bisexual men are more likely to smoke and use drugs. Lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to be overweight or obese and to smoke. Because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, members of the LGBTQ community may experience discrimination and violence and may generally have more stress. This can lead to higher blood pressure and other problems.

What can I do?

There are many things you can do to lower your risk of heart disease:

  • Be more active.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat fewer foods high in fat and sugar.
  • Lose weight.
  • Quit smoking.

Vanderbilt Heart

The Vanderbilt Heart team is one of the best in the country. Our doctors and staff treat patients with all kinds of cardiovascular diseases, including very complex cases. We offer a wide range of services in one location. Our patients can expect world-class care that’s convenient and tailored to their needs. For more information, visit our website at

For information only. Not to replace the advice of your health care provider. Copyright © 2012 Vanderbilt University Medical Center. All rights reserved.