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Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

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Where You Live Is a Factor in Hypertension

Study Shows High Blood Pressure Incidence Is Linked to Location, Gender, and Race
By Katrina Woznicki
WebMD Health News

Dec. 6, 2010 -- Race, place, and gender appear to be strongly associated with high blood pressure, a major risk for heart disease and stroke, according to new data.

A 20-year study involving more than 3,400 young, initially healthy adults in four urban areas found that the risk of developing high blood pressure was higher in the South compared to the North; hypertension rates were highest in African-American women and lowest in white women.

Understanding which regions and populations are at greatest risk could help experts target better interventions for these groups.

Researchers led by Deborah A. Levine, MD, MPH, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, analyzed data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. This study included information on black and white men and women who were between the ages of 18 and 30 during 1985 and 1986, when the study began, and who lived in Birmingham, Ala.; Chicago; Minneapolis, Minn.; or Oakland, Calif.

The participants were followed for the next 20 years to see who developed high blood pressure. The groups were matched for race, gender, and initial health status.

Even after taking account many of the lifestyle factors that are known to contribute to high blood pressure -- such as obesity, smoking, family history, and physical activity -- geography, race, and gender were still independently associated with a higher incidence of high blood pressure.

Tracking Blood Pressure by Geography, Race, and Gender

Among the researchers’ findings:

  • High blood pressure was more likely to affect African-Americans compared with whites, and the highest rates were seen in African-American women. By the end of the study, 37.6% of African-American women and 34.5% of African-American men had developed hypertension, whereas the rates were lower in white men at 21.4% and lowest among white women at 12.3%.
  • Birmingham, Ala., had the highest incidence of hypertension at 33.6% and Minneapolis, Minn., had the lowest at 19%. High blood pressure incidence was 27.4% in Oakland, Calif., and 23.4% in Chicago.

The results are published in the January 2011 issue of Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

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