Racism May Be a Contributing Factor to Higher Rates of Hypertension Among Blacks

CooperLisaBlack Americans are 1.5 times as likely to have high blood pressure than other Americans. A new study led by Lisa A. Cooper, the John F. Fries Professor of Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, finds that African Americans who are hypervigilant over racial issues tend to have higher blood pressure than other African Americans.

The study included 266 patients at urban health clinics in Baltimore. Subjects answered a questionnaire about their experiences with racial issues and also had their blood pressure checked. Those patients who said they thought about racial issues on a consistent basis were more likely to have high blood pressure.

In commenting on the fact that Blacks were more likely to have hypertension than Whites, Dr. Cooper noted, “It doesn’t appear to be genetic and while things like diet, exercise and reduced access to health care may contribute, we think that a tense social environment, the sense of being treated differently because of your race, could also possibly explain some of what’s behind the higher rates.”

Professor Cooper is a graduate of Emory University in Atlanta and earned her medical degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also holds a master of public health degree from Johns Hopkins University.

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