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Heart Disease Risk Factors Affect Women, African-Americans More

Update Date: Aug 12, 2014 03:35 PM EDT

In order to take preventive measures for certain diseases, researchers must first identify the risk factors. Even though risk factors might be relatively the same for certain conditions, there is growing evidence that these risk factors affect people differently. According to a new study, heart disease risk factors hit women and African-Americans harder than any other racial or gender groups.

The researchers examined data on more than 13,500 Americans from 1987 to 1998 in order to calculate the population attributable risk, which takes into account how common a certain risk factor is and how much that risk factor contributes to heart disease risk. The researchers focused on five factors, which were high cholesterol, high blood pressure (hypertension), obesity, diabetes and smoking.

Within the time span of 10 years, the researchers found that the combined risk for heart disease was the same for African-Americans at 67 percent. During the same time period, the combined risk for whites fell from 56 percent to 48 percent. The combined risk for women and men fell from 68 percent to 58 percent, and 51 percent to 48 percent respectively.

The researchers concluded that heart disease risk factors appear to affect women and African-Americans the hardest. For example, diabetes and hypertension are two risk factors that generally affect women and African-Americans more. Women with diabetes have a 21 percent increased risk of heart disease in comparison to the 14 percent increased risk in diabetic men. In terms of race, African-Americans with diabetes are two times more likely to suffer from heart disease than white people with diabetes.

The researchers explained that genetics or biology could explain why these risk factors affect certain groups more than others. However, the team added that the increased risk of heart disease for women and African-Americans could be due to poor management of these risk factors.

"These findings could support the idea that when a woman or a black patient has these risk factors, they tend to be not as recognized or well-controlled, because they aren't as aggressively treated," said Dr. Susan Cheng, a specialist in cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, reported by Philly.

Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the Women's Heart Program at New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center, added, "It's really important for us to address all the risk factors, but also be aware that women and African-Americans are really susceptible for high risk of heart disease with the presence of diabetes or high blood pressure."

The study, "Temporal Trends in the Population Attributable Risk for Cardiovascular Disease: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study," was published in the journal, Circulation.

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