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High blood pressure linked to racial segregation

Unhealthy gut bacteria may also hike blood pressure

KATHMANDU — A study led by the researchers of National Institutes of Health has found people living in racially segregated neighborhoods are at a higher risk of high blood pressure.

The researchers, in a study involving more than 2,000 African-Americans, found that black adults living in racially segregated neighborhoods had an increased risk of high blood pressure, but moving away from segregated neighborhoods was linked with a reduction in blood pressure enough to reduce heart attacks and strokes.

“Our study suggests that the stress and the inadequate access to health-promoting resources associated with segregation may play a role in these increases in blood pressure,” said Dr. David Goff, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, or NHLBI, of NIH, in a press release.

For the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers examined blood pressure readings for 2,280 black adults who participated in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, focusing on adults age 18 to 30 who were initially screened in 1985 and 1986 who were followed several times over 25 years.

“While stress raises blood pressure, access to health-promoting resources, such as full service grocery stores, recreation centers and health care clinics, is critical to keeping blood pressure at healthier levels.”

The study found that when neighborhoods were more segregated, participants had small but statistically significant increases in systolic blood pressure, while reductions in segregation correlated with a decrease in blood pressure.

The study showed the most significant improvements occurred in individuals who lived in highly segregated neighborhoods and moved to less segregated ones, with systolic blood pressure dropping 3mm to 5mm Hg.

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“This is a powerful effect,” said Kiarri Kershaw, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.