Blacks at Increased Risk for Enlarged Heart

Finding spurs call for better blood pressure control

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MONDAY, June 6, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds black Americans are two to three times more likely than whites to have an enlarged heart, a condition called left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH).

LVH is linked to chronic high blood pressure, and greatly increases the risk of heart failure.

"I think this is a wake-up call, emphasizing the need for aggressive blood pressure control in the African-American community," study author Dr. Mark Drazner, an associate professor of internal medicine at the Donald W. Reynolds Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, said in a prepared statement.

The study of more than 1,300 blacks and 850 whites between the ages of 30 and 67 found that when adjustments were made for blood pressure, this racial gap was greatly reduced. According to Drazner, this suggests the racial disparity in LVH rates is primarily linked to high blood pressure and not to factors such as overweight and obesity.

"Since we're seeing this higher prevalence of left ventricular hypertrophy with the current blood pressure goals, it also raises the provocative concept of whether ethnic-specific criteria for blood pressure treatment and goals are appropriate," he said.

High blood pressure makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood. Eventually the left ventricle -- the heart's main pumping chamber -- thickens or grows larger under the strain.

Drazner and his colleagues believe higher rates of obesity among black Americans don't explain their higher LVH rates.

"African-American women are known to have higher rates of obesity than their white counterparts. One thought was that the difference in body composition and the higher rates of obesity might explain the higher prevalence of left ventricular hypertrophy," Drazner said.

However, "we found that after measuring and accounting for the amount of fat and fat-free mass, there was still a difference in left ventricular hypertrophy," he said.

The study appears in the current issue of Hypertension.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about LVH.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, June 6, 2005

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