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Member Research and Reports

UNC Study Explores Timing of Changes in Blood Pressure Health That Lead to Larger Disparities

African-Americans and men are more likely to transition from ideal levels of blood pressure in childhood or early adulthood, compared to White Americans and women, which puts them at increased risk of developing hypertension earlier in life. This is the primary finding of a new study published online April 19 by JAMA Cardiology.


[Photo: According to a new UNC study, men and African-Americans generally are more likely to transition from ideal levels of blood pressure in childhood or early adulthood, placing them at increased risk of developing hypertension earlier in life. Photo by Army Medicine.]

The article, “Heterogeneity in blood pressure transitions over the life course: Age-specific emergence of gender and race/ethnic disparities in the US,” explores the timing of net transition probabilities between ideal blood pressure (120/80 mm Hg), prehypertension and hypertension in a diverse, nationally representative United States sample.

Ms. Shakia T. Hardy, epidemiology doctoral student at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, is lead author of the study.

“This paper identifies peaks in movement from the ideal category of blood pressure to prehypertension and hypertension across the lifespan in the largest American ethnic groups,” Ms. Hardy said. “Identifying these periods of pronounced transitions may point to opportunities to prevent the worsening of this key risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”

Study findings highlight that the biggest gains in prevention will occur from targeting the maintenance of ideal blood pressure in childhood. This is because, during childhood, African-Americans and boys are more likely to transition out of the ideal category of blood pressure, thus introducing health disparities that accumulate over time.

“Widespread awareness of these data could help motivate researchers to focus on testing innovative prevention and detection programs for elevated blood pressure,” Ms. Hardy said. “Public health efforts that reach populations known to be vulnerable to early rises in blood pressure in culturally- and gender-appropriate settings are warranted.”

Other co-authors from the UNC Gillings School include Dr. Katelyn M. Holliday, Mr. Joseph C. Engeda, Dr. Gerardo Heiss, and Dr. Christy L. Avery, all from the department of epidemiology; Mr. Sujatro Chakladar, Dr. Donglin Zeng and Dr. Dan Yu Lin, from the department of biostatistics; and Dr. Christina M. Shay, from the department of nutrition.

Read more: http://sph.unc.edu/sph-news/new-study-explores-timing-of-changes-in-blood-pressure-health-that-lead-to-larger-disparities/