The participants had been asked about racial discrimination, and the researchers paired their answers with the results of blood tests that measured degradation of red blood cells, an indicator of oxidative stress.
More blacks reported racial discrimination than whites, and blacks who experienced more racial discrimination than their peers had more oxidative stress. Among whites, discrimination was not tied to oxidative stress.
This preliminary study only looked at overt discrimination, and additional research is needed to confirm the results. Future research might want to focus also on institutional discrimination, such as neighborhood and school segregation, said Szanton, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore.
Mieres suggested that clinicians might want to incorporate more information on day-to-day stressors their patients face into treatment decisions.
"That might factor into making determinations for treating borderline blood pressure or diabetes," she said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on health disparities.
SOURCES: Sarah L. Szanton, Ph.D., assistant professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Baltimore; Jennifer H. Mieres, M.D., cardiologist and chief diversity and inclusion officer, North Shore-LIJ Health System, Manhasset, N.Y.; Sept. 13, 2011, International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, online
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