Skin colour may dictate how well you do after a heart attack

A new study in the U.S. has found that the colour of your skin may predict how you are treated following a heart attack.

The study shows persistent racial disparities in U.S. medical care and large differences in the way heart attacks are treated in black patients compared to white patients.

This worrying revelation by researchers at a VA Medical Center and the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine shows that there are racial differences in how heart attack victims are dealt with.

The study tracked 1.2 million Medicare patients with a minimum age of 68 years, treated for a heart attack between January 2000 and June 2005 at 4,627 hospitals in the U.S.

The team says blacks were about 30 percent less likely to get procedures such as angioplasty or open-heart surgery after a heart attack; were 22 percent less likely to be transferred from a hospital that did not do such procedures to one that did; and even when they were transferred, were 23 percent less likely to get such operations than whites.

In the period from a month to a year after the heart attack, blacks were also up to 26 percent more likely to die than whites.

The study which assessed racial differences in patterns of care and risks of death for certain heart attack patients says African Americans had higher death rates because they were not transferred or attended to for their heart attacks.

The differences say the team is more apparent in care after acute heart attacks, where invasive and costly technologies are needed such as a bypass or angioplasty procedure.

Some African American patients that were admitted to hospitals and needed to be transferred to a hospital with specialized services for their heart attacks waited more than two days for such treatment.

Lead researcher Dr. Ioana Popescu says the study was not designed to find the reasons for the disparities but racial discrimination could not be ruled out.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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