The stats are too familiar: Nearly half of African-American adults are at risk of developing hypertension, a rate significantly higher than that of any other group in the United States. Hypertension-related ailments, such as strokes and end-stage renal disease, account for 20 percent of all deaths among African-Americans.
Then there are the lesser-known facts - such as the inherent differences between blacks and whites in blood pressure regulation both during rest and exercise. These disparities exist even among healthy, non-hypertensive blacks.
Two faculty members at The University of Texas at Arlington's College of Nursing and Health Innovation have won a $376,000 National Institutes of Health grant to investigate such differences in vascular responses. David Keller, an associate dean and chair of the college's Department of Kinesiology, and kinesiology professor Paul Fadel, director of clinical translational science, say insights gained through their study will help fight and significantly reduce the scourge of hypertension among African-Americans as well as in other populations.
"We're trying to understand the underlying mechanisms in blood pressure regulation," Keller said. "We know that African-Americans respond differently to different forms of physiological stress, such as exercise, cold and other acute forms of stress. We are looking at mechanisms to help explain theses differences." Fadel added: "If we can better understand the mechanism we can better understand treatment strategies." The study will examine two different groups: those who come from families with a history of high blood pressure and those who don't. Keller said a thorough understanding of biological mechanisms associated with hypertension could have significant ramifications for all racial and ethnic groups. "If we have a better understanding of all underlying mechanisms it could lead to better treatment in all populations," he said.
State Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, lauded the study and said its outcome would boost health and wellness efforts in the African-American community. "This is an excellent example of the kind of academic research that will lay the foundation to potentially transform healthcare not only in the African-American community but for all who suffer from Hypertension related illnesses," said Collier, a member of the House Public Health Committee.
"Getting a handle on this ailment will significantly enhance positive health outcomes and help our communities thrive in a healthier manner." The study builds on a previous one by Keller that began in 2009 and showed differences in the regulation of blood rate and blood pressure between blacks and whites with normal blood pressure readings at rest and during exercise. "There appeared to be less of an ability to defend against hypersensitive challenges and increases in blood pressure among African-American participants," Keller said.
Anne Bavier, dean of The University of Texas at Arlington's College of Nursing and Health Innovation, noted that improving health and the human condition is one of the four main themes of UTA's Strategic Plan 2020.
She called the study an important part of the college's commitment to contributing to the body of knowledge in healthcare and to serving and empowering the community through research. "Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in America," Bavier said. "Despite significant medical improvements in tackling this disease in recent years, we still have a long way to go, particularly in the African-American community. The work of Dr. Keller and Dr. Fadel is a critically important part of closing this health gap."
University of Texas at Arlington