Study: Victims of racism risk high blood pressure
October 23, 1996
Web posted at: 8:40 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Jeff Levine
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A new study on high blood pressure finds
that racism can be a key risk factor for hypertension among
"In African-Americans, the experience of discrimination in
combination with the way that they responded to unfair
treatment might affect their blood pressure in an adverse
way," Dr. Stephen Sidney of Kaiser Permanente said.
African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to suffer
from high blood pressure. In the past, researchers have
pointed to many possible explanations, ranging from diet to
"It makes sense that if there was less racism
and discrimination that there would be less hypertension
in the African-American population."
-- Dr. Richard Ashby, Alexandria Hospital
The study, published in the American Journal of Public
Health, involved about 4,000 African-Americans and whites.
Among the African-Americans surveyed, 80 percent said they
had experienced some type of racism. Researchers concluded
that that stress created racial differences in blood pressure
as great as 56 percent.
But the study pointed to some contradictions. For instance,
working class African-Americans who had the highest blood
pressure reported the fewest episodes of racism.
By contrast, professional women and men who took a stand
against racism had lower blood pressure. That result seemed
to indicate that confronting racism can be a healthier
response than suppressing the feelings, said Lawrence Gary of
Researchers hope their findings will raise awareness that
discrimination is a medical issue as well as a social one.
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