1. Physical activity
Data regarding physical activity among Puerto Rican individuals are
sparse. It is clear that these individuals have relatively high rates
of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, all of which are often
accompanied by relative physical inactivity. However, this assumption
must be regarded as no more than a hypothesis.
2. Overweight and obesity
Puerto Rican diet tends to be relatively high in calories, fat,
complex carbohydrates, and sodium. It is somewhat deficient in calcium
and vegetables. Younger individuals have abandoned the traditional
diet for a more Americanized diet that includes a great deal of fast
food, pizza, hot dogs, canned spaghetti, and cold cereals.
As a result of diet, as well as related factors, Puerto Ricans suffer
disproportionately from diabetes (three to five times the general
population), high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, gastrointestinal
disorders, and obesity. The rate of obesity among Puerto Rican males
overall was reported in 1984 to be 25%, 15% at age 20-24, to 31% at
age 65-74. Among women, the overall rate was 37%, ranging from 23% at
age 20-24 to 61% at age 60-74. There is reason to believe that the
situation has worsened as acculturation has worsened the quality of
diet for individuals of Hispanic descent in the U.S.
In general, approaches to dietary counseling in Puerto Rican
communities is most successful if the teacher is respected, the
approach is personal, and the counseling is sanctioned by a respected
member of the community.
3. Tobacco use
Smoking was reported to be lower among Hispanic women overall (13.8
percent) than among many other groups, especially African-Americans
(21.9%) and Whites (23.5%). However, Puerto Rican women smoke at a
rate of 21%. Only 5.8% of Hispanic women report smoking during
pregnancy; the reported rate among Puerto Rican women during pregnancy
is higher. However, smoking among young Hispanic women, including
Puerto Rican women, is lower than for White or African-American young
Among women who smoke, Puerto Ricans were more likely to be heavy
smokers than others (48.6% smoked more than 1/2 pack per day).
Overall, among Hispanic men, the smoking rate is 26%, as compared with
27% for White men. It is not clear whether the same rates apply for
Puerto Rican men. Tobacco use is disproportionately promoted in
minority and Hispanic neighborhoods, including Puerto Rican
4. Substance abuse
A 1984 study of adolescent drinking in Puerto Rican communities
suggested a lower rate of alcohol use and abuse in this population.
However, problem drinking increased when adolescents left home. The
same study found that problem drinking was substantial among mothers.
5. Responsible sexual behavior
In the continental U.S.,...