October 24, 1996 in Nation/World

Discrimination Blamed For Higher Blood Pressure

Associated Press

Offering an explanation for elevated blood pressure among many black Americans, a new study suggests racial discrimination and how it is handled may account for the disparity.

Blacks who typically accepted unfair treatment had higher blood pressure than those who challenged it, according to a study to be published today in the American Journal of Public Health.

“Individuals belonging to groups subjected to discrimination may be at a lower risk of elevated blood pressure if they are able to articulate, rather than internalize, their experiences,” according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute.

High blood pressure, a major cause of heart disease, strokes and kidney failure, afflicts about 62 million Americans. It is a huge health risk for everyone, but black Americans suffer hypertension one-third more often than whites, they get it earlier in life and they suffer more severe health consequences.

The study, which questioned 4,086 people ages 18 and 30, also found differences between black men and women and between working-class and professional blacks.

Working-class blacks were more likely to have high blood pressure than professionals. Among them, the highest levels were found in workingclass women who “accepted unfair treatment as a fact of life” and kept it to themselves.

Professional blacks - men and women - who reported doing something about unfair treatment had comparatively low blood pressure.

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