Study: Fried and processed foods linked to increased hypertension in black Americans

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09 Oct 2018 --- A change in diet could mitigate the increased risk for stroke in black Americans over white Americans, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found. The findings suggest that lifestyle changes, particularly changes in diet around processed, fried and sugary foods, could help reduce the disparities seen in black versus white Americans.

“This study addresses a lead cause of racial disparity in mortality and identifies potential lifestyle changes that could reduce racial disparities in both stroke and heart disease,” says Claudia Moy, Ph.D., NINDS Program Director and one of the study authors.

Researchers studied individuals over the age of 45 over a period of 10 years and looked to identify risk factors associated with the higher likelihood of developing high blood pressure in the study participants.

“The majority of disparities we see in the health of black versus white Americans are cardiovascular in nature,” says Dr. Howard, “and of these, all are tied to an increase in high blood pressure.”

For both men and women, a diet composed of high amounts of fried and processed foods and sweetened beverages was the greatest factor associated with why black Americans are at a greater risk of developing high blood pressure when compared to white Americans.

For both men and women, other important factors included salt intake and education level. For women, additional factors contributing to the racial difference in high blood pressure included obesity and waist size.

“One of the main factors affecting the difference between the black and white population is cardiovascular disease. The increased risk of high blood pressure among black Americans could help explain why their life expectancy is four years shorter than that of white Americans,” says Dr. Howard. “Understanding how we can prevent this increased risk of hypertension in blacks is critical for reducing health disparities among the black population.”

The researchers hope that these findings could be applied to reduce the prevalence of hypertension and thus the risk of stroke and heart attack in the black American population. 

“The best way to treat high blood pressure is to prevent it from occurring in the first place,” says Dr. Howard.

The REGARDS study includes more than 30,000 black and white Americans, approximately half of whom live in the Stroke Belt, an area in the southeastern United States where the rate of stroke mortality is higher than the rest of the country. Of these, 6,897 participants, 1,807 black and 5,090 white, were analyzed for this study.

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