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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Diet Rich in Fried and Processed Foods Linked to Increased Hypertension in Black Americans

Nurse making notes during home visit with senior couple.

Diet appears to be a major contributor to the increased risk of hypertension in black compared to white Americans.

New findings suggest that diet is a major contributor for the increased risk of hypertension in black compared to white Americans. The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, are part of the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, which looks at the incidence of stroke in approximately 30,000 individuals. The study is funded by NINDS.

“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,” said Dr. Claudia Moy, NINDS program director and one of the study authors.

In the study, led by Dr. George Howard, a biostatistics professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, 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,” said 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 blacks are at a greater risk of developing high blood pressure compared to whites. 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, and the increased risk of high blood pressure among black Americans could help explain why their life expectancy is 4 years shorter than that of whites,” said Howard. “Understanding how we can prevent this increased risk of hypertension in blacks is critical for reducing health disparities among the black population.

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Associate Editor: Carla Garnett
Carla.Garnett@nih.gov

Staff Writers:

Eric Bock
Eric.Bock@nih.gov

Dana Talesnik
Dana.Talesnik@nih.gov

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