Black women face a higher risk of coronary heart disease due to interpersonal racism in employment, housing and interactions, according to a recent report.
According to the American Heart Association, the risk of Black women being diagnosed is 26% more probable than their White counterparts due to the attributed factors.
“Many Black adults in the U.S. are already at higher risk of developing heart disease due to high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes,” according to Shanshan Sheehy, Sc.D., lead author of the study and an assistant professor at the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University and Boston University’s Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine. “Current evidence shows that racism may act as a chronic stressor in the human body, and chronic stress may lead to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.”
Data was compiled from approximately 48,000 individuals who enrolled in the Black Women’s Health Study stemming from 1997 to 2019. Researchers evaluated whether self-perceived interpersonal racism was linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease.
In 1997, the participants were asked to answer questions about their experiences around interpersonal racism in their everyday activities, including “How often do people act as if they think you are dishonest?” and “have you ever been treated unfairly due to your race in any of the following circumstances? — employment (hiring, promotion, firing), housing (renting, buying, mortgage) or in interactions with police (stopped, searched, threatened).”
The researchers then calculated the score to find that the women who reported experiencing racism had an estimated 26% higher risk of heart disease.
“Structural racism is real — on the job, in educational circumstances and in interactions with the criminal justice system,” said Michelle A. Albert, M.D., M.P.H., FAHA. Albert is president of the American Heart Association, professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), Admissions Dean for UCSF Medical School and an author on the study. “Now we have hard data linking it to cardiovascular outcomes, which means that we as a society need to work on the things that create the barriers that perpetuate structural racism.”
She added: “Future research is needed to examine the impacts of structural racism on cardiovascular health, as well as to evaluate the joint impacts of perceived interpersonal racism and structural racism.”