A recent study led by scholars at the University of Alabama at Birmingham has found that diet is the predominant factor explaining why African-Americans are more likely to develop higher blood pressure than their White counterparts.
“Life expectancy is about four years shorter in African-Americans compared to Whites, and a driving force of life expectancy differences is cardiovascular diseases,” said lead author George Howard, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “The higher risk of hypertension in African-Americans plays a central role in this problem. Not only does hypertension have a direct impact on racial disparities, it also drives the disparities in stroke and heart-related conditions.”
The researchers examined 6,897 participants (1,806 Blacks and 5,090 Whites) from across the country for over a period of more than nine years. The participants were interviewed by telephone and examined by a health professional who took their blood pressure, weight, height, and waist measurements. They were also asked questions about their health and completed questionnaires regarding their diet.
Among the 12 potential factors studied for their relationship with the development of hypertension, the biggest factor for explaining the difference in the risk between African-Americans and Whites was diet. This diet consisted of high amounts of fried food, sweetened beverages, and processed foods and was more common among African-Americans. Additionally, they also found that salt-intake and less education were contributing factors to the difference in hypertension risk between the races.
Dr. Howard hopes that his findings will help guide efforts to reduce the risk of hypertension in African Americans, which will in turn reduce the racial disparities in cardiovascular disease.”