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Race Takes Back Seat to Diabetes and High Blood Pressure

Americans,” says senior study investigator Jo?o Lima, M.D.

According to Lima, an associate professor of medicine and radiology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart Institute, these early results add to other interesting findings from the so-called Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).

The study, started in 2001, is monitoring its ethnically diverse participants for six to eight years to see who develops heart failure and who does not. It is the first large-scale analysis of racial or ethnic differences in heart function. So far, 79 study participants have developed congestive heart failure.

Other results presented at the meeting showed differences among races in heart strain, or contraction, which may contribute to disparities in heart failure, albeit to a lesser extent. Indeed, African American hearts were found to contract less strongly than those of Hispanic, Caucasian or Chinese American backgrounds.

Lima cautions, however, that much remains to be understood about the root causes of racial disparities and how to fix them.

He points out that while African Americans are at much higher risk of heart failure, there is no similarly higher number for risk of suffering heart attack, which, like diabetes and hypertension, often leads to heart failure.

In MESA, researchers found a reverse relationship, with African Americans having the lowest rates of heart failure due to myocardial infarct (at 25 percent), while other races had a much higher proportion: Caucasians (40 percent), Hispanics (42 percent), and Chinese Americans (100 percent.)

Lima says the difference could be due to successful disease prevention efforts among all racial groups, except for African Americans, at controlling hypertension.

“A lot of public health attention has already been paid to getting high blood pressure under control, so it may be just that this risk factor is unde
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