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Study: Blacks twice as likely to die of coronary heart disease as whites

Death rates from heart attacks and coronary heart disease have fallen since the 1970s, but that statement rings far truer for whites than for blacks. Studies have shown a widening gap between whites and blacks in heart disease deaths and in heart attack hospitalizations, and new research pins down just how deadly that difference is.

A paper published in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association included 24,443 participants who didn’t have coronary heart disease when they were first enrolled between 2003 and 2007, and were followed through December 2009 (for an average of 4.2 years). During that time, there were a total of 659 coronary heart disease incidents. When adjusted for age and region of residence, black men were 15 percent more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease. Black women were 48 percent more likely than white women to suffer from coronary heart disease, though women fared better than men in general.

Here’s an even grimmer figure: Both black men and women bore roughly double the risk of death from coronary heart disease as their white counterparts.

Although blacks and whites in the study were about the same average age, blacks suffered more risk factors associated with heart disease. They were more likely to smoke and have diabetes, higher blood pressure, higher body mass index and lower kidney function.

Another study in this week’s JAMA looked at risk factors for cardiovascular disease in more than 15,000 Latino participants, including those of South American, Mexican and Cuban backgrounds. They found that 80 percent of men and 71 percent of women had at least one risk factor, and that 25 percent of Puerto Ricans had at least three.

The reports “send a powerful and sobering message: Despite 50 years of epidemiological knowledge and despite numerous therapeutic advances, risk factor burdens among minority populations are unacceptably high and consequential,” Dr. Michael Lauer, cardiovascular sciences director at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, wrote in a JAMA editorial.

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