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Jul 08, 2017

Segregated Neighborhoods Contribute to High Blood Pressure in Black Adults

Reducing neighborhood segregation could reduce blood pressure, finds study.

Eliminating segregation between white and black neighborhoods may help combat high blood pressure, based on a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Known as the CARDIA study (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults), this study tracked the health of more than 2,200 black adults from four U.S. cities, including Birmingham, Alabama; Chicago, Illinois; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Oakland, California. Participants were followed from 1985 through 2017, during which time they underwent physical exams to assess their blood pressure and health. Participants also reported any changes in residence over the 25-year period. Almost all participants moved at least once during the study period and more than half moved three or more times.

Participants were 18–30 years old at the start of the study; more than half were women.

After analysis, researchers found that where black adults lived had a significant impact on their blood pressure. Overall, participants’ systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) was significantly higher in areas with more segregation. However, participants that moved from highly segregated to less segregated areas during the study period had more than a 1 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure after the move.

While other studies have found that black adults living in segregated areas have greater risk for high blood pressure, this is the first to report changes in blood pressure over time. There’s a wealth of evidence that the grouping of white and black adults in geographical areas causes disparities related to education, income, healthy food options and even health. According to authors, findings support policies that help reduce segregation in neighborhoods to promote better health.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and is even more common in black adults compared to whites. Reducing segregation in U.S. communities offers an important opportunity to help eliminate health disparities and promote better blood pressure among black adults.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is hypertension?
  • Hypertension, often referred to as high blood pressure, occurs when the force of blood against the artery walls is too high. High blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer,” because it often causes no symptoms and if left uncontrolled, increases risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Who is at risk for high blood pressure?
  • Risk for hypertension increases with age, and most adults will eventually be affected by this condition at some time in their lives. However, diabetes, obesity, stress, high sodium intake, tobacco use and excessive alcohol use can greatly increase risk for high blood pressure.


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Infographic: High Blood Pressure