Heart disease risk profiles differ widely among African Americans, blacks from the Caribbean and African immigrants

Photo of Diana Baptiste, D.N.P., R.N., C.N.E.

American Heart Association EPI | LIFESTYLE 2020 Scientific Sessions – Abstract 08

African immigrants have significantly lower rates of risk factors for heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases compared to blacks from the Caribbean and African Americans, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2020. The EPI Scientific Sessions is a premier global exchange of the latest advances in population based cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians.

Black Americans experience more heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases compared to white Americans, which is likely due to higher prevalence of risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and others. However, this might not be true for black Americans who have more diverse ethnic backgrounds or who have emigrated from Africa or the Caribbean.

“Prior research into heart disease racial disparities typically has studied only African Americans or has grouped U.S. and foreign-born blacks without considering ethnicity, birthplace or other factors,” said lead study author Diana Baptiste, D.N.P., R.N., C.N.E., assistant professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, Maryland.

Researchers studied 82,000 non-Hispanic blacks and 370,000 whites who took part from 2010 through 2018 in the National Health Interview Survey, a nationally representative, in-person survey conducted yearly in Spanish and English. The researchers found differences among the three different ethnic classifications for black Americans and compared them to whites for all four heart disease risk factors studied: high blood pressure, diabetes, excess weight and smoking.

“The study shows that race alone doesn’t account for risk factor differences between blacks and whites,” said Baptiste. “Among all the groups, African immigrants, who have the highest degree of African ancestry, had the lowest burden of risk factors.”

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