Purpose: Previous comparisons of coronary heart disease mortality between Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic whites have given paradoxic results: despite their adverse cardiovascular risk profiles, especially a greater prevalence of diabetes, Mexican Americans are reported to have lower rates of mortality from coronary heart disease.
Subjects and methods: We performed a community-based surveillance among all residents of Nueces County, Texas, aged 25 to 74 years, from 1990 to 1994. All death certificates were obtained and coded, and deaths potentially related to coronary heart disease were selected and validated by standardized methods blinded to ethnicity. Validated in-hospital and out-of-hospital coronary heart disease mortality was compared between 785 Mexican Americans and 862 non-Hispanic white women and men.
Results: Validated coronary heart disease mortality in Mexican Americans exceeded that for non-Hispanic whites in the same community. Among women, definite coronary heart disease mortality was 40% greater among Mexican Americans (rate ratio [RR] 1.43, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.12 to 1.82), as was all coronary heart disease mortality (RR, 1.32, 95% CI: 1.08 to 1.63). Among men, Mexican Americans had greater rates of all (RR, 1.11; 95% CI: 0.96 to 1.28) and definite coronary heart disease mortality (RR, 1.16; 95% CI: 0.91 to 1.47), but the associations were not statistically significant.
Conclusions: When community-wide mortality rates from coronary heart disease are properly validated, Mexican Americans have rates equal to or higher than those of non-Hispanic whites. Community-based surveillance with validation of coronary heart disease as the cause of death is necessary to avoid the errors that occur with the use of death certificates alone.