Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Economic woes have led to a spike in the number of black people, particularly black women, having sudden heart failure, a new study says.
Nearly 10 percent of black men and 6.6 percent of black women included in the study faced sudden cardiac death by age 85, according to a study published Monday in the journal Circulation. By comparison, 6.5 percent of white men and 2.3 of white women suffered sudden cardiac death by the same age.
"We wanted to explain the risk of sudden cardiac death and identify factors that could explain the differences," Eliseo Guallar, the lead author of the study from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a press release. "We found that overall, African Americans had approximately double the lifetime risk of sudden cardiac death compared to whites. African-American women had about triple the risk compared to white women."
The results come from data of nearly 4,000 black people and more than 11,000 white people who were followed for over 27 years, up to age 85.
Income and education disparities for hypertension, diabetes and other cardiovascular risks contributed to about 65 percent of the difference in sudden cardiac death risk.
Sudden cardiac death occurs when the heart's electrical system stops working, preventing the organ from working and blood from flowing to the brain.
Sudden cardiac death is responsible for about 325,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
To prevent a further uptick of this problem, healthcare experts say that at risk for sudden cardiac death should get better control of their blood pressure and expand their training in CPR in their communities.
"Low income and education are associated with unhealthy behaviors, low disease awareness and limited access to care, which could all contribute to poor outcomes," Guallar said. "However, our understanding of the mechanisms for racial differences in sudden cardiac death is still incomplete and additional research is needed."