That’s a lot of Heart Failure

April 14th, 2009 | Sources: NEJM, NY Times


The incidence of heart failure in young African-American adults is 20 times higher than that white age-matched counterparts, according to a study in last week’s New England Journal of Medicine.

HeartbreakerSome black adults had actually died of heart failure a decade before the chronic illness even began to affect whites.

Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo and colleagues enrolled 5,115 18-30 year olds and managed to follow them for 2 decades in an effort to understand the causes and course of cardiac disease.

Because participants were so young at the time of enrollment, the scientists didn’t expect to see much at this juncture, but it turned out that 27 participants developed heart failure and all but one was black.

The scientists estimated the incidence of heart failure in blacks under the age of 50 to be 1%.

“Blacks in our study who were in their 30s and 40s had the same rate of heart failure as whites in their 50s and 60s,” Bibbins-Domingo told the New York Times.

“These people are in the prime of their life and should be contributing in all kinds of ways,” Bibbins-Domingo added. “So this disease has a devastating effect, not just on the individual but on the family, the community and society in general.”

Afflicted individuals of all races were more likely to have diabetes, hypertension, obesity and kidney disease. They also tended to have low HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Eric Peterson, a Duke cardiologist who wrote an accompanying editorial on racial disparities in cardiac care thought the study was “remarkably important,” especially since heart failure is largely preventable.

“This shows you where having 20 years of uncontrolled blood pressure has effects, on kidney disease — and on the heart,” Peterson said. “It wears it out.”



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