Hypertension Found To Be A Dominant Risk Factor For Heart Failure In African Americans

November 09, 1998

DETROIT -- Hypertension is the dominant risk factor that causes a higher prevalence of heart failure in African Americans than in Caucasians, according to a Henry Ford cardiologist. The findings are being presented today at the American Heart Association meeting in Dallas.

"Heart failure is a serious cardiovascular epidemic. Race-related differences need to be better understood as we look for the most effective ways to prevent and treat this problem," says study author Edward Philbin, M.D., medical director of the heart failure and cardiac transplant program at the Henry Ford Heart and Vascular Institute in Detroit.

The study performed by Dr. Philbin and his colleagues examined the prevalence of heart failure and risk factors for this disease among urban African American and suburban Caucasian patients undergoing cardiac catheterization during a three-year period. To understand the causes of heart failure, the researchers studied patients' age, sex, body weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, cigarette smoking habits, illicit drug use, alcohol consumption, coronary artery blockages and history of prior heart attacks.

The results showed a remarkably higher prevalence of heart failure among African Americans than Caucasians. As expected, African Americans and Caucasians displayed differing risk factor profiles. However, it was hypertension that was both more common in African Americans, and, furthermore, a strong risk factor for heart failure among African Americans. On this basis, Dr. Philbin and his colleagues believe that hypertension contributes significantly to the higher rate of heart failure among urban African Americans.

According to Dr. Philbin, the patients involved in this research study may be somewhat different than the ordinary patient with heart failure seen in clinical practice. Study participants were relatively young in age (an average of 55 years of age) and underwent extensive medical testing.

"Nonetheless, this study goes a long way to help us understand why African Americans are more likely to develop this serious and fatal disease," Dr. Philbin says. "Because hypertension is both preventable and treatable, this study offers hope that heart failure can be prevented and lives can be saved."

Henry Ford Health System

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