risk factor for heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease. In 2002, hypertension was listed as a primary or contributing cause of death for 277,000 Americans.
The University of Illinois researchers hypothesized that the blood vessels of the black men would show greater dysfunction than the white men, even though both groups were young and equally healthy and fit. The vascular damage they looked for included stiffening and thickening of the blood vessels. These conditions result in pulsatile (not smooth) blood flow (and at higher pressure) to organs. The pressure can damage the organs over time.
Both groups healthy
The study included 55 young men, 30 white and 25 African-American. Most were university seniors. The average age was 23. There were no differences between the groups on a variety of measures, including heart rate, cardiorespiratory fitness, body mass index, body fat, blood lipids and glucose levels.
The researchers measured vascular function in a variety of ways, including:
- aortic blood pressure and stiffness
- brachial blood pressure
- carotid artery blood pressure
- carotid artery thickness and stiffness
They found the African-American men had similar brachial blood pressure, compared to the white men, but they had significantly higher:
- Central blood pressure, a measure of the pressure found in the artery, near the heart. The researchers used an instrument that takes blood pressure at the wrist and then calculates the central blood pressure.
- Carotid artery pressure. The carotid artery runs through the neck.
The African-American men, unlike the white men, also showed signs of early vascular damage that could lead to hypertension. For example, they had:
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- Thicker carotid arteries, a sign of vascular damage that is usually found in older individuals and associated with atherosclerosis.
- Stiffer a
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