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Segregation Linked to High Blood Pressure

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Segregation Linked to High Blood Pressure

Article excerpt

MEMPHIS - Dr. Frank Perry isn't surprised that a new study links racially segregated neighborhoods and high blood pressure for African-Americans.

The study of 2,280 black adults over 25 years found a small but significant rise in blood pressure for those living in racially segregated neighborhoods. Blood pressure decreased for those who moved to less segregated neighborhoods.

"I think anything that reduces segregation is helpful," said Perry, an associate professor of internal medicine at Meharry Medical College and a physician in Nashville.

The pressure of segregation

Stress, quality of schools, housing values and physical access to health-promoting resources such as drugstores, full-service grocery stores and gyms may be contributing to a rise in blood pressure in segregated neighborhoods, researchers determined.

The findings of the National Institutes of Health-funded study, published in the May issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, "suggest that social policies that minimize segregation, such as the opening of housing markets, may have meaningful health benefits, including the reduction of blood pressure."

Other studies have pointed to segregation and inequality as factors in conditions ranging from high blood pressure and stroke and diabetes to cancer.

Prescribing health care

Perry added racial inequities in health care therapy and treatment guidelines to the factors. For solutions, he said universal health care would be helpful.

"I think 40 percent or 50 percent of people who are diabetics don't know they are, can't afford health care or are tragically underinsured, so they don't go to the doctor until it is severe," he said. …

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