High Blood Pressure Still Plagues More Blacks Than Whites, UB Study Shows

By Lois Baker

Release Date: June 23, 1995 This content is archived.


SNOWBIRD, UTAH -- High blood pressure continues to affect more blacks than whites, despite suggestions that the differential has equalized over time, a comparison of blood pressure readings from studies conducted 26 years apart has shown.

The new analysis, conducted by epidemiologists at the University at Buffalo, finds that while blood pressure in both races seems to have dropped over three decades due, at least in part, to better treatment, the ratio has not lessened.

In fact, the ratio may have increased over time, they reported here today at the annual meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research.

Blacks in the U.S. historically have experienced hypertension more frequently than whites. However, some studies conducted since the 1960s concluded that the black/white difference in hypertension prevalence has diminished significantly.

Other researchers, including Maurizio Trevisan, M.D., chair of UB's Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, a specialist in blood-pressure epidemiology, have argued that this finding is skewed by studies with low participation rates and high potential for bias.

To investigate this possibility, Trevisan and colleagues analyzed black/white blood pressure measurements from two comprehensive blood-pressure studies with high participation rates conducted in Western New York in 1960 and 1986.

Results showed that in 1960, black women were 40 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than white women. In 1986, black women appeared 150 percent more likely to be hypertensive compared with white women.

Black and white men showed similar prevalences of hypertension in 1960, while black men appeared to be about 40 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than white men in 1986.

€ In 1960, more white men than black men smoked, but more black women than white women smoked.

€ In 1986, more blacks of both sexes smoked than whites.

` € Smoking in general decreased from 1960 to 1986.

€ People of both races have gotten heavier in the past three decades, based on the body/mass index, a ratio of weight to height.

"This comparison of data from two population samples from a U.S. metropolitan area indicates that the black/white hypertension ratio has not diminished in the past 30 years, and there is indication that the racial differences have actually increased," said Trevisan.

The epidemiologists are now looking at the effect of medical treatments and cultural changes on the black/white ratio and on hypertension in general.

Also participating in the study were Marcia Russell, Ph.D., of the Research Institute on Addictions in Buffalo and the UB Department of Social and Preventive Medicine; Erin O'Leary, doctoral student and Joan Dorn, Ph.D., UB Department of Social and Preventive Medicine.