Black people in U.S. at higher risk for heart disease, study finds

The risk for heart disease for Black people in the U.S. has increased in recent years, while it has declined in other racial and ethnic groups, a new study has found. Photo by hamiltonpaviana/Pixabay
The risk for heart disease for Black people in the U.S. has increased in recent years, while it has declined in other racial and ethnic groups, a new study has found. Photo by hamiltonpaviana/Pixabay

Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Black adults in the United States are at higher risk for developing heart disease than people of other racial or ethnic groups, a study published Tuesday by JAMA found.

This is due, at least in part, to increased rates of obesity, as well as elevated blood sugar and blood pressure levels, among Black people compared with White and Hispanic people, the researchers said.


Black people are also more likely to be active smokers than those of other racial and ethnic groups, the data showed.

However, differences in income and access to healthcare may also play a role, given that risk for heart disease is higher among those living in poverty, according to the researchers.

"Racial differences in cardiovascular disease risk may be due to social determinants of health such as education, income, home ownership, employment, health insurance [status] and access to healthcare," study co-author Dr. Jiang He told UPI in an email.


"Increases in obesity, diabetes and uncontrolled hypertension are most likely due to unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity and low adherence to medications," said He, chair and professor of epidemiology at Tulane University in New Orleans.

In the United States, deaths attributed to heart disease have declined significantly since the 1950s, due to increased awareness of the role of lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and exercise play in risk, recent studies suggest.

However, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States, with deaths increasing slightly over the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some of this rise in heart disease-related deaths may be attributable to spikes in the national prevalence of diabetes and obesity, or being severely overweight, He and his colleagues said.

Both diabetes and obesity are risk factors for heart disease.

The analysis of data on more than 50,000 adults age 20 and older from across the country found that 42% met the criteria for obesity in 2017-18, the most recent year with available statistics, up from just over 30% in 1999-2000.

In addition, 13% of the adults included in the analysis had diabetes in 2017-18, up from 8% in 1999-2000.


Prevalence of high blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease, may also be rising, with average blood pressure levels rising nationally since 2010, according to the researchers.

Conversely, average total cholesterol levels -- high cholesterol also raises heart disease risk -- appear to be declining nationally.

Although total cholesterol levels were lower among Black study participants compared with those who were White or Hispanic, Black adults in the study had higher average weight, blood pressure and blood sugar, the latter a sign of diabetes, the data showed.

For Black study participants, the risk of developing heart disease over the next 10 years was 8.3% in 2017-18, up from 7.6% in 2013-14, though down from 9.1% in 1999-2000.

In comparison, White participants had a 6.3% risk for developing heart disease over the next 10 years in 2017-18, down from 7.5% in 1999-2000.

For Hispanic participants, the risk was 6.4% in 2017-18, a decline from 7.4% in 1999-2000, according to the researchers.

"The 10-year risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease was constantly higher in Black participants compared with White participants," He said.

"Public health policy to increase population's awareness about healthy lifestyle, change environment to make healthy duet and physical activity more accessible, improve the quality and access of health care are all important," he said.


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