High Blood Pressure in Blacks Linked to Where They Live

Dr. Frank Perry isn’t surprised that a new study links racially segregated neighborhoods and high blood pressure for African-Americans. 

The study of 2,280 black adults older than 25 found a small but significant rise in blood pressure for those living in racially segregated neighborhoods. Blood pressure decreased for those who moved to less segregated neighborhoods.

“I think anything that reduces segregation is helpful,” said Perry, an associate professor of internal medicine at Meharry Medical College and a physician in Nashville.

Stress, quality of schools, housing values and physical access to health-promoting resources such as drugstores, full-service grocery stores and gyms may be contributing to a rise in blood pressure in segregated neighborhoods, researchers determined.

The findings of the National Institutes of Health-financed study, published in the May issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, “suggest that social policies that minimize segregation, such as the opening of housing markets, may have meaningful health benefits, including the reduction of blood pressure.”

Other studies have pointed to segregation and inequality as factors in conditions ranging from high blood pressure and stroke and diabetes to cancer.

Perry added racial inequities in health care therapy and treatment guidelines to the factors. For solutions, he said universal health care would be helpful.

“I think 40% or 50% of people who are diabetics don’t know they are, can’t afford health care or are tragically underinsured, so they don’t go to the doctor until it is severe,” he said. “Then they want miracles.”

While still high, racial segregation of black and white residents in the nation’s 52 largest metropolitan areas has modestly declined in recent years, a Brookings Institution analysis found.

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Source: USA Today | Kevin McKenzie, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal