It’s a well known statistic that African Americans have some of the highest blood-pressure rates in the nation, and a research group based at Johns Hopkins University has found it may be partly because of the color of their skin.
“The authors found an association between black patients saying they thought about race and having higher blood pressure levels,” stated Brie Zeltner of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, quoting researchers who wrote: “Our findings related to race consciousness and [blood pressure] add support to an emerging body of evidence examining the association between the psychological stress related to racial discrimination and [blood pressure]. …racism may increase risk for [high blood pressure].”
Thinking about race as a black patient was associated with a roughly five point increase in diastolic blood pressure (the “bottom” blood pressure number) and about a four point increase in systolic blood pressure (the “top” blood pressure number) compared to black patients who said they never thought about race. There was no effect on blood pressure in race-conscious white patients.
Zeltner goes on to note in a comment after the article:
About the “imagined” versus “real” racial persecution. In one way, you’re right– perceived stress has just as much of a health effect as actual stress. The authors asked the research participants if they thought about race. When black patients (but not whites) answered yes, they found this connection to blood pressure. Subjects weren’t asked if they were being persecuted, or threatened, or discriminated against, so the “imagined vs. real” point in this case is really moot. It’s all about thoughts– the researchers dubbed it “hypervigilance.”
One commenter had this take on the results:
So does this mean that we should blame this health problem on the people who make a living off of trying to find racism in everything such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Rachel Maddow, Bill Maher, etc, and help black people to obsess about us living in a racist country (even though the majority of people in this country have twice elected a black President). Or how about blaming this on the colleges and universities who create anger among black people by teaching everyone, including black people, that all problems are caused by “race, class & gender”?
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