Blacks At Higher Risk Of Heart Failure

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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While African-Americans are not any more likely to suffer heart attacks than whites are, they're nearly twice as likely to develop heart failure, apparently because of their propensity to develop high blood pressure and diabetes, according to a study in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

The findings "show the importance of more aggressive control of high blood pressure and diabetes in African-Americans," said lead study author Hossein Bahrami, M.D., a cardiology research fellow at Johns Hopkins University.

Chinese-Americans, by contrast, only had a third of the risk of heart failure as whites.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, about 5 million Americans suffer from heart failure and the condition contributes to 300,000 deaths a year.

Heart failure occurs when the heart fails to pump blood adequately. "It doesn't mean your heart has stopped," Bahrami said. "It's basically that the heart doesn't function properly."

He said causes of the condition include high blood pressure, which makes the heart strain to pump blood, and damage sustained during a heart attack.

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In the new study, Bahrami and colleagues examined the findings from an ongoing cardiovascular health study that recruited 6,814 people ages 45 to 84, from 2000 to 2002. The participants — whites, African-Americans, Hispanics and Chinese-Americans — lived in Maryland, Illinois, North Carolina, California, New York and Minnesota.

During a four-year period, 79 of the participants developed heart failure; African-Americans were 1.8 times more likely to develop the condition.

High blood pressure and diabetes in African-Americans seemed to be the main reason for the difference, although income and education levels appeared to play a role too, the study said.

Overall, the difference between two ethnic groups was large: 4.6 in every 1,000 African-Americans suffered from heart failure in a yearlong period, compared with just one in 1,000 Chinese-Americans.

In another study finding, heart attacks boosted the risk of heart failure among both Chinese-Americans and African-Americans more than it did among whites and Hispanics.

Diane Brown, director of the Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, said future research should explore a possible gap in quality of health care encountered by the different groups.

It is especially important for researchers to examine the follow-up care that patients receive, Brown said. "We need to look at access to quality care on an ongoing basis."

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