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No Link Between Race And Body's Response To Heart Attack

July 24, 1997

In four separate studies, researchers from Henry Ford Hospital's Heart & Vascular Institute found no link between race and a patient's physiological response to a heart attack. These findings indicate there is no need to factor race into decisions regarding medical treatment after a heart attack.

Henry Ford researchers will present their findings at the International Interdisciplinary Conference on Hypertension in Blacks July 20-23 in London, England.

Because African Americans are at a greater risk for developing heart disease, scientists speculated that race might need to be taken into consideration when treating heart attack victims. However, Henry Ford researchers report that patients had the same physiological response after a heart attack, regardless of race.

We found that among all participants, the heart enlarged after an attack, said Mohsin Alam, M.D., director of Echocardiography and associate division head of Cardiology at Henry Ford Hospital, who was the principal investigator in two of the studies.

Dr. Alam's studies showed the only physiological difference between African American and Caucasian patients was that African Americans had a thicker lower-left heart chamber.

The additional thickness means the heart is more rigid and has less elasticity, Dr. Alam said. This does not affect a patient's chances of recovery or the type of treatment African American patients should receive. It does, however, limit the heart's ability to fill with blood and causes it to work harder than normal.

Dr. Alam and his associates compared the hearts of first-time African American and Caucasian heart attack victims. His first study examined 134 African Americans and 281 Caucasians immediately after their first heart attack. The second study collected the specific heart measurements of 61 African American and 104 Caucasian heart attack patients at 48 hours, three months and six months after their admission to the hospital.

In two additional studies, Fareed Khaja, M.D., Heart & Vascular Institute senior staff cardiologist, examined the influence of race on heart attack complications during hospitalization.

In the first study, Dr. Khaja and his associates found no significant difference in the number of complications developed by a group of 161 African American and 344 Caucasian heart attack patients.

In a second study, he reached similar conclusions by evaluating 96 African American and 228 Caucasian patients who received additional intervention, such as angioplasty or bypass surgery, after their first heart attack.

Complications after a heart attack are not related to a patient's race, according to our data, Dr. Khaja said. The risks for developing complications were similar in both races even after adjusting for differences in age, gender, diabetes and a history of hypertension.

These four studies were funded by a $1.3 million grant from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Md.

The International Interdisciplinary Conference on Hypertension in Blacks is dedicated to improving the health and life-expectancy of ethnic populations in the United States and around the world.

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Henry Ford Health System

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