Noteworthy News: Survey Suggests Link between Racism, High Blood Pressure in African Americans

Black Issues in Higher Education, October 25, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Noteworthy News: Survey Suggests Link between Racism, High Blood Pressure in African Americans


noteworthy news: Survey Suggests Link between Racism, High Blood Pressure in African Americans

ATLANTA

Researchers at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta have provided the first empirical evidence suggesting that racism may be a contributing factor to the unusually high prevalence of high blood pressure and its attendant cardiovascular effects among African Americans.

The connection was revealed by a survey of 400 African Americans' perceptions of stress and racism led by Dr. Sharon Davis, chief of the Social Epidemiology Research Division at Morehouse.

Davis, a social epidemiologist whose research includes the effects of stress on blood pressure, and her colleagues undertook the survey as a means to quantitatively explore whether the unique stresses caused by racism have any clear effects on the cardiovascular health of African Americans.

"Stress has been proven in previous studies to be an important contributing factor to the prevalence of hypertension," Davis says. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a condition that puts individuals at increased risk for suffering heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular ailments. African Americans experience the highest prevalence of hypertension of any group in the United States, Davis says. More than a third of Black Americans have high blood pressure, and they suffer a 1.8 times greater rate of fatal stroke and a 1.5 times greater chance of death due to heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Davis and her colleagues devised a study group of 400 Black adults, half of whom were hypertensive and half of whom had normal blood pressure. When survey participants were asked if they had ever experienced racism or discrimination in any aspect of their life that was stressful, the response was generally the same among those with high blood pressure and those without.

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