Body size is a major predictor of high blood pressure

Body size is a major predictor of high blood pressure in both blacks and whites but racial differences may affect the association of weight and blood pressure, according to study results presented at the American Society of Hypertension’s Nineteenth Annual Scientific Meeting.

“Despite similar obesity-related health risks in all populations, the specific level of risk associated with excess weight may vary with race, age and gender,” said Jill E. Abell, MPH, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston. “The Black Pooling Project, which includes the Evans County, GA, Heart Study, provides a resource to assess the effects of body mass on blood pressure in a population of black and white men and women.”

The Evans County Heart Study is a community-based cohort of 3,102 people identified since 1960. Data at baseline included age, systolic and diastolic blood pressure and body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to both men and women.

Ms. Abell described results from a cohort of 3,089 people. The cohort consisted of 941 white males, 970 white females, 534 black males and 644 black females. BMI was defined as underweight, normal, overweight and obese.

The average age for the four gender-racial groups was 46. Approximately half of the participants had a BMI greater than 25. A gender-racial breakdown of overweight or obese included 46% of white males, 44% of white females, 38% of black males and 59% of black females.

“Blood pressure increased with BMI in all four ethnic-gender groups,” she said.

“Approximately 53% of whites and 74% of blacks were hypertensive with blood pressure greater than 140/90 mm Hg. Higher rates of hypertension for blacks were seen for all weight categories.

“Our data indicate that increasing levels of BMI above the normal range have a comparable effect to increase blood pressure in the four different ethnic-gender groups,” Ms. Abell concluded. “The data are consistent with other evidence that the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity would significantly lower blood pressure and the prevalence of hypertension in both blacks and whites.”

The American Society of Hypertension (ASH) is the largest US organization devoted exclusively to hypertension and related cardiovascular diseases. ASH is committed to alerting physicians, allied health professionals and the public about new medical options, facts, research findings and treatment choices designed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. http://www.ash-us.org/

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