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Lumbee Indian Tribe at Raised Heart Risk

Members of the North Carolina tribe may need more focused care, researchers say

MONDAY, March 13, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Highlighting the need to pinpoint populations at special risk for heart disease, researchers report that members of the Lumbee Native American tribe of North Carolina face higher cardiac dangers than Americans in general.

The Lumbees are the second largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River. It's estimated there are more than 50,000 Lumbees in North Carolina.

A team from Duke University in Durham, N.C., found that 920 Lumbees hospitalized for heart treatment had significantly higher rates of cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and prior history of coronary heart disease, and were more likely than others to receive angioplasty during their hospitalization. The Lumbee patients also tended to be younger and were more likely to be female.

The Duke study also found that, nine years after their initial hospitalization, Lumbee patients had similar death rates as other patients, but were more likely to have suffered from at least one non-fatal heart attack over those nine years.

Despite their increased risk, Lumbee patients also had lower rates of heart procedures -- such as angioplasty or coronary artery bypass surgery -- to reopen clogged coronary arteries over those nine years, compared to the general population.

The findings were presented Sunday at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, in Atlanta.

"As a clinician who takes care of many Lumbees, I think these findings are truly impressive, particularly the finding that they tend to be younger and more likely female," senior researcher Dr. Kristin Newby said in a prepared statement. "These results raise important questions that will need to be addressed."

The findings may have broader implications, as well. "With health-care and heart-care costs rising in the U.S., it is very important to identify groups of patients who are at the greatest risk in order to develop strategies to help them," Dr. Druenell Linton, an internal medicine resident at Duke, said in a prepared statement.

"Identifying those groups, like we have in this study, marks a first step in this process of improving health-care outcomes and addressing disparities in health care. In order to improve delivery of, or access to, health care, it is important to first show the need," Linton said.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about heart disease risk factors.

SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center, news release, March 12, 2006
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