Racial segregation in neighborhoods linked to hypertension

Residential segregation, the separation of groups into different neighborhoods by race, is a known cause of health disparities between blacks and whites.
By Amy Wallace   |   May 16, 2017 at 11:19 AM
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May 16 (UPI) -- A study by the National Institutes of Health has found people living in racially segregated neighborhoods are at a higher risk of high blood pressure.

NIH researchers found black adults living in racially segregated neighborhoods had an increased risk of high blood pressure, but moving away from segregated neighborhoods was linked with a reduction in blood pressure enough to reduce heart attacks and strokes.

"Our study suggests that the stress and the inadequate access to health-promoting resources associated with segregation may play a role in these increases in blood pressure," Dr. David Goff, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, or NHLBI, of NIH, said in a press release.

"While stress raises blood pressure, access to health-promoting resources, such as full service grocery stores, recreation centers and health care clinics, is critical to keeping blood pressure at healthier levels."

Researchers examined blood pressure readings for 2,280 black adults who participated in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, focusing on adults age 18 to 30 who were initially screened in 1985 and 1986 who were followed several times over 25 years.

The study found that when neighborhoods were more segregated, participants had small but statistically significant increases in systolic blood pressure, while reductions in segregation correlated with a decrease in blood pressure.

The study showed the most significant improvements occurred in individuals who lived in highly segregated neighborhoods and moved to less segregated ones, with systolic blood pressure dropping 3mm to 5mm Hg.

"This is a powerful effect," said Kiarri Kershaw, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "In terms of impact, just 1mm Hg of reduction of the systolic blood pressure at the population level could result in meaningful reductions in heart attacks, strokes and heart failure."

The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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