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Younger Latinos May Not Live As Long as Older Hispanics

Image: Community health center

Blood draw at Mary's Center, a community health center in Washington, D.C., on Thurs. Oct 17. (John Brecher / NBC News) John Brecher / NBC News

Early results from the government's most comprehensive attempt to document the health of U.S. Hispanics suggest younger Hispanics may not enjoy the longevity of their older counterparts.

While Latinos have high rates of blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and pre-diabetes overall, younger Hispanic adults were the least likely to have diabetes under control and the least likely to eat recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute released the early results Monday from the study that followed more than 16,000 Hispanics ages 18 to 74 since 2008. Four sites were studied: Chicago, Miami, the Bronx, New York and San Diego.

The study may answer why Hispanics live longer than their white counterparts. It also attempts to chart differences within the community, such as that Puerto Ricans are the least healthy, while Latinos from South America, who tend to be more recent arrivals, were among the healthiest.

Mexican-Americans are the largest and oldest Hispanic group nationwide, but there has been more recent growth among Dominicans and those from Central and South America.

"With the changing face of the Hispanic population, we need more current information about their health," said Dr. Larissa Aviles-Santa, the institute's project director for the study.

Researchers are documenting prevalence of chronic disease and risk factors, and trying to determine how adopting U.S. lifestyles affects Hispanics' health. Aviles-Santa said the results may provide a better understanding of what some call the "Hispanic paradox" — longer lives than non-Hispanic white Americans despite some known health risks. The study also may help find ways to prevent health conditions afflicting Hispanics.

--Reporting by the Associated Press