There appears to be a racial disparity in rates of high blood pressure among Hispanic Americans, with Hispanic blacks facing a greater risk than Hispanic whites, a new study suggests.
Researchers say the tendency to group all Americans of Hispanic ancestry into one ethnic category may be “masking” a problem of high blood pressure among black Hispanics.
Some studies have suggested that Hispanic Americans have rates of high blood pressure that are similar to or lower than non-Hispanic white Americans’.
But the term “Hispanic” describes diverse groups of Spanish-speaking people of any racial background. And the new findings, published in the journal Ethnicity & Disease, point to a health disparity between black and white adults of Hispanic descent.
“Ignoring race could mask variation in hypertension among Hispanics,” writes study author Dr. Luisa N. Borrell of Columbia University in New York City.
She based her findings on data from a yearly national health survey of U.S. adults. Among 88,000-plus Americans surveyed between 2000 and 2002, more than 12,000 described themselves as Hispanic.
Overall, nearly one-quarter of respondents said they had high blood pressure, with the condition being more prevalent among non-Hispanics than Hispanics - about 25 percent, versus 17 percent.
However, black Hispanics were at slightly greater risk than their white counterparts - although non-Hispanic black adults had by far the highest rate of high blood pressure, at 30 percent.
The racial disparity among Hispanic Americans was also evident in the fact that higher-income, better-educated black Hispanics still had a higher rate of high blood pressure than lower-income, less educated white Hispanics.
According to Borrell, the findings suggest that black Hispanics face some of the same discrimination and social disadvantages - and, therefore, poorer health - that African Americans do.
“This kind of comparison,” she said in a statement, “could help tease out the effect of race as a marker for inequality in opportunities and, further, as a cause for existing health disparities.”
“If we are serious about eliminating health disparities among Americans,” Borrell concludes in her report, “race among Hispanics cannot be ignored.”
SOURCE: Ethnicity & Disease, February 2006.
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD