Date Published: 5 October 2018

Higher prevalence of hypertension in black compared with white Americans linked with fried and highly processed food

Diet plays a significant role in the increased risk of hypertension in black compared with white Americans according to research 1 recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

This study is part of the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) 2 investigation into the incidence of stroke in more than 30,000 people. It is designed to find out more about hypertension (high blood pressure), a condition that has been described as "a lead cause of racial disparity in mortality"3, and to identify lifestyle changes that might be expected to reduce the incidence of both strokes and heart disease.

The researchers studied data from more than 30,000 people aged over 45 for a duration of 10 years and attempted to identify risk factors associated with having a higher likelihood of developing high blood pressure in the study participants.

Dr George Howard, Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who led the study said that 3:

" The majority of disparities we see in the health of black versus white Americans are cardiovascular in nature, and of these, all are tied to an increase in high blood pressure."

The research found that in the cases of both men and women, a diet featuring large amounts (i.e. a high proportion of) fried and processed foods and sweetened beverages was the most significant factor associated with black people being at greater risk of developing high blood pressure than white people. Also in the cases of both men and women, other significant factors included salt intake and education level. Additional factors for women that also contributed to the racial difference in high blood pressure included obesity and waist size.

" One of the main factors affecting the difference between the black and white population is cardiovascular disease, and the increased risk of high blood pressure among black Americans could help explain why their life expectancy is four years shorter than that of whites," added Dr. Howard.
" Understanding how we can prevent this increased risk of hypertension in blacks is critical for reducing health disparities among the black population
."

It is hoped that the results of this study can be applied to reduce the prevalence of hypertension and thus the risk of stroke and heart attack in the black American population. They suggest that lifestyle changes, particularly changes in diet of some Americans, might contribute to reducing the disparities seen in black versus white Americans.

" The best way to treat high blood pressure is to prevent it from occurring in the first place," said Dr. Howard.

In 2016, the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) launched a stroke prevention campaign called Mind Your Risks (see mindyourrisks.nih.gov), designed to educate people aged 45-65 about association link between uncontrolled high blood pressure and the risk of having a stroke or developing dementia later in life. See also lifestyle factors affecting hypertension.

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