Study Finds Black People in Rural Areas Are More Likely to Die from Diabetes and High Blood Pressure Than White People

The rate of deaths related to diabetes and high blood pressure among Black people over the past two decades improved in urban areas, according to a new study, but rural communities are lagging.

Scientists have known for years that people in rural areas of the U.S. were more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than their city counterparts. But researchers wanted to see if recent efforts to reduce the racial gap in health were working equally in both areas of the country.

First, they looked at U.S. deaths for Black and white adults age 25 and older from 1999 to 2018. Then they zeroed in on where people lived and what cardiovascular conditions were listed as a cause of death.

While the study found death rates in rural areas were higher for Black adults compared with white adults for heart disease and stroke, it did show the racial gap in heart disease deaths declined at a similar rate in both rural and urban areas – and fell more rapidly for stroke in rural areas than in urban ones.

But the gap was especially wide for deaths related to diabetes and high blood pressure. Black rural residents were two to three times more likely to die from those conditions than white rural residents.

A slightly different picture emerged in urban areas. The gap between the rate of deaths for diabetes and high blood pressure among Black and white people improved about three times faster in cities and nearby suburbs than it did in rural areas.

“What’s really concerning is these disparities haven’t meaningfully improved over the last two decades,” said lead author Dr. Rahul Aggarwal, a resident physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

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SOURCE: HealthDay, American Heart Association News, Thor Christensen