Racial differences in hypertension-related strokes explored

A recent study examining racial differences in blood pressure and risk of stroke, revealed that African-Americans with hypertension are three times more likely to have a stroke than their white counterparts.

Dr. George Howard and colleagues reviewed files for 27,748 African-American and white men and women over 45 years old, and followed them for 4.5 years. The participants in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) were the subjects of this study.

This study was published yesterday online in JAMA Internal Medicine.

During the study period, 715 participants suffered strokes. Overall, the study showed that a 10 mm Hg difference in systolic blood pressure was associated with an eight percent increase in stroke risk for whites, but a 24 percent increase for blacks. Furthermore, African-Americans between the ages of 45 to 65 were three times more likely to have a stroke, compared to whites.

Authors of the study concluded that the findings confirm the significant racial differences in, not only the incidence of stroke, but upon the impact of elevated blood pressure on stroke risk. Furthermore, when these racial differences are coupled with the previously documented higher prevalence of hypertension and poorer control of hypertension in blacks, they may account for much of the racial disparity in stroke risk.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross added, Doctors with some knowledge of public health have long been aware of the strikingly greater toll of high blood pressure on the black population. This study adds some perspective: not only is the incidence of hypertension higher, but the effects of such elevation are greater on blacks than whites. The severe effects of even mild hypertension must be carefully addressed and the response to treatment followed assiduously in this population to reduce its deadly toll.