Study: Blacks lagging behind in cardiovascular health

October 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

Americans as a whole have experienced declines in heart disease between 1992 and 2000, but differences between black and white Americans persist.

Americans as a whole have experienced declines in heart disease between 1992 and 2000, but differences between black and white Americans persist when it comes to cardiovascular health, according to a survey conducted by New York-based Pfizer Inc. and the Washington-based National Medical Association.

The study found that age-adjusted death rates for cardiovascular disease remain 29% higher for blacks than whites, and age-adjusted stroke deaths remain 40% higher in black Americans compared with whites, despite an overall decrease in heart disease and stroke deaths for both groups.

"While there has been overall progress in treating and preventing heart and other vascular diseases, much improvement is needed to bring cardiovascular health among black Americans to the same level that we see in whites," said Robin Hertz, senior director of population studies at Pfizer. "The key lies in treating risk factors for cardiovascular disease earlier."

Hypertension increases

Hypertension, a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease, is on the rise for both groups, with the greatest increases seen in middle-aged blacks. The greatest hypertension gap between blacks and whites is also seen in this group, where 50% of blacks and 30% of whites have hypertension.

Treatment discrepancies

According to Hertz, the appropriateness of the medical treatment provided to blacks for some conditions, lack of access to medical care and patient noncompliance may all contribute to the cardiovascular health disparities seen in the study.

A major difference between the two racial groups lies in lowering blood pressure to recommended treatment goals. Over the past decade, treatment has been increasingly effective among whites, but there has been no change in the effectiveness of treatment among blacks.

"This study shows that simply prescribing treatments and telling a patient what to do is not enough," said Elijah Saunders, chairman of the Cardiology Section of the National Medical Association. "Healthcare providers have a responsibility to follow up with their patients and encourage them to adhere to treatments." PR

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