African Americans Are Five Times As Likely as Whites to Have Extremely High Blood Pressure

Several studies have shown that hypertension or high blood pressure is significantly more prevalent among African Americans than is the case for White Americans. But according to a study co-led by a Rutgers University researcher, African Americans in inner-cities are five times as likely as Whites to experience hypertensive emergency, which is defined as extremely high blood pressure that can lead to stroke, heart attacks, and acute kidney damage.

For the study, researchers analyzed medical records of 3,568 patients with elevated blood pressure treated in the emergency department of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, a New Jersey hospital that serves predominately African-American communities. Half of the patients had severe cases of high blood pressure.

The most likely patients to experience hypertensive emergency were male, 65 years or older, diabetic, had chronic heart or kidney disease, or had low hemoglobin. Although it was not measured in this study, the researchers believe that psychosocial stress such as occupational stress, housing instability, social isolation, and racism could be among the causes for higher rates of blood pressure among African Americans.

“These factors occur more often in African Americans than in other racial groups, and it is proposed that chronic stress can activate stress hormones that constrict blood vessels and elevate blood pressure,” said Irina Benenson, assistant professor of nursing at Rutgers. “However, more studies are needed to confirm.”

The full study, “Prevalence and Risk Factors for Hypertensive Crisis in a Predominately African American Inner-City Community,” was published in the journal Blood Pressure. It may be accessed here.


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  1. Don says:

    It is good that researchers are finally focusing on the impact of “racism” on African Americans. No wonder we have high blood pressure!

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