Heart failure strikes younger African-Americans at the same rate as older Caucasians

Mar 18, 2009

Heart failure—a disabling and often deadly form of heart disease—is hitting African Americans in their thirties and forties at the same rate as Caucasians in their fifties and sixties, according to a study featured as the lead article of the March 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

One in 100 African-American men and women developed at an average age of 39, 20 times the rate in Caucasians, according to Racial Differences in Incident Heart Failure Among Young Adults. Heart failure in African Americans was associated with such as hypertension and obesity that were already present when these adults were in their twenties.

"These findings should be a wake-up call on the need for African Americans and physicians to address risk factors that can lead to heart failure. Heart failure is disproportionately hitting African Americans in the prime of their lives," said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Ph.D., M.D., lead author of the study and a scholar with the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Bibbins-Domingo is an assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and co-director of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations at San Francisco General Hospital.

Each year, heart failure—also known as congestive heart failure—affects about 5 million people in the United States and results in nearly 300,000 deaths, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health. Heart failure affects the heart's ability to pump blood to the lungs or oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body and can cause debilitating fatigue, shortness of breath and, eventually, death.

Heart failure is traditionally perceived as a form of heart disease that mostly affects the elderly. The results of the study suggest, however, that heart failure can occur at much younger ages, particularly among African Americans.

Physicians and patients should be aware of the risk factors such as hypertension and obesity and work to prevent and treat these conditions, even among young adults.

"These findings illustrate the importance of identifying solutions to the social, economic, environmental and health care-related factors that contribute to persistent health disparities," said Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A. "The study results also highlight the urgency of reversing the childhood obesity epidemic. Today's unhealthy children are tomorrow's unhealthy adults. We know that obese children are being diagnosed with conditions previously considered adult illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, and they're at higher lifetime risk for a host of serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, asthma and some forms of cancer. The harsh reality is that, unless we act now to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity, we may raise the first generation of Americans who will live sicker and die younger than their parents."

This study found that each 10 mmHg increase in diastolic (the "bottom" number) among African Americans in their twenties doubles the likelihood of developing heart failure when they are in their forties. "It doesn't matter how young a patient is—hypertension needs to be diagnosed and treated," Bibbins-Domingo said. "The longer you have uncontrolled hypertension, the greater the chance that you will develop heart failure."

Young adults are often unaware that they have hypertension, and even when aware are often untreated or undertreated. Physicians may be reluctant to treat younger adults because cardiovascular complications are perceived to be rare and far in the future. "Our study suggests that the complications of high blood pressure can occur much earlier and should serve as a reminder that current guidelines recommend identification and treatment of blood pressure regardless of the age of the patient," said Bibbins-Domingo.

Explore further: Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New heart failure device is tested

Oct 17, 2006

Physicians at 50 U.S. medical facilities are taking part in a multinational clinical trial of a device designed to help heart failure victims.

Hypertension disparity linked to environment

Oct 20, 2008

Social environment may play a greater role in the disparity between the numbers of African Americans living with hypertension compared to non-Hispanic whites with the disease. A study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg ...

Recommended for you

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

1 hour ago

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

US orders farms to report pig virus infections

Apr 18, 2014

The U.S. government is starting a new program to help monitor and possibly control the spread of a virus that has killed millions of pigs since showing up in the country last year.

Foreigner dies of MERS in Saudi

Apr 18, 2014

A foreigner has died after she contracted MERS in the Saudi capital, the health ministry said on announced Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 73.

Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak

Apr 18, 2014

Vietnam is scrambling to contain a deadly outbreak of measles that has killed more than 100 people, mostly young children, and infected thousands more this year, the government said Friday.

New clues on tissue scarring in scleroderma

Apr 18, 2014

A discovery by Northwestern Medicine scientists could lead to potential new treatments for breaking the cycle of tissue scarring in people with scleroderma.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.