Chronically high levels of stress may increase black folks’ risk of high blood pressure, according to a new study. This is particularly bad news for black folks, who have the highest levels of hypertension in the world.
“Given the disproportionately high burden of hypertension in African-Americans, determining if chronic stress increases the risk of hypertension in this population is an important question that could guide prevention strategies,” said study author Tanya Spruill, an associate professor at NYU School of Medicine.
Researchers in the study analyzed data from more than 1,800 black participants in the Jackson Heart Study. Over a seven-year period, they found those who reported long-term high stress levels were 22 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure than those with stress levels on the opposite end of the spectrum.
The connection between chronic stress and blood pressure was present even when researchers accounted for socioeconomics, regular high blood pressure risk factors and health behaviors.
“Over the study follow-up period, almost half of the participants developed hypertension,” Spruill said. “This highlights the need for new hypertension prevention strategies for African-Americans. Lifestyle change is effective, however, it can be challenging to achieve.”
Culturally sensitive stress management interventions may help prevent high blood pressure and reduce later heart risk among us, Spruill said, but more research is needed.
“This is an observational study; we interpret the findings cautiously,” she said. “However, our results suggest evaluating chronic stress over time rather than at a single occasion can help identify those at greatest risk.”
We report higher overall stress levels than people of other races, the authors said.