High blood pressure more prevalent in black patients conscious of racism.
An increasing amount of researchers are finding a connection between racism and high blood pressure, which they say may explain the major discrepancy between hypertension levels between African Americans in the U.S. and other races.

In a new study from John Hopkins University, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, also shows that black patients who worry or think frequently about race have higher blood pressure than those who don’t.

The research was based on an existing sociological survey that assessed race consciousness among 266 patients in urban health clinics in Baltimore. The participants were 61 year-olds, 62 percent were black and 65 percent were women. Using the 2002 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, they were asked how often they think about race and were divided into those who “ever” think about race, and those who “never” do.

The results showed that black patients were more likely to ever think about race than white patients (49% vs. 21%); race-conscious blacks had significantly higher diastolic blood pressure (79.4 vs. 74.5mm Hg) and somewhat higher systolic blood pressure (138.8 vs. 134.7mm Hg) than blacks who were not race conscious. Race-conscious whites were more likely to perceive respect from their physician (57.1% vs. 25.8%), but had lower medication adherence (62.4% vs. 82.9%) than whites who were not race-conscious.

That study concluded that “racism may increase risk for [high blood pressure]; these effects emerge more clearly for institutional racism than for individual level racism. All levels of racism may influence the prevalence of [high blood pressure] via stress exposure and reactivity and by fostering conditions that undermine health behaviors, raising the barriers to lifestyle change.”

They also said that their findings support an emerging body of evidence examining the association between the psychological stress related to racial discrimination and blood pressure.

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