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Hypertension. 2011 Mar;57(3):383-9. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.110.161950. Epub 2011 Feb 7.

Health behaviors and racial disparity in blood pressure control in the national health and nutrition examination survey.

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  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 1620 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02120-1613, USA.


Minorities have a higher prevalence of hypertension, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which contributes to racial/ethnic disparities in morbidity and mortality in the United States. Many modifiable health behaviors have been associated with improved blood pressure control, but it is unclear how racial/ethnic differences in these behaviors are related to the observed disparities in blood pressure control. Cross-sectional analyses were conducted among 21 489 US adults aged >20 years participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2001 to 2006. Secondary analyses were conducted among those with a self-reported diagnosis of hypertension. Blood pressure control was defined as systolic values <140 mm Hg and diastolic values <90 mm Hg (or <130 mm Hg and <80 mm Hg among diabetics, respectively). In primary analyses, non-Hispanic blacks had 90% higher odds of poorly controlled blood pressure compared with non-Hispanic whites after adjustment for sociodemographic and clinical characteristics (P<0.001). In secondary analyses among hypertensive subjects, non-Hispanic blacks and Mexican Americans had 40% higher odds of uncontrolled blood pressure compared with non-Hispanic whites after adjustment for sociodemographic and clinical characteristics (P<0.001). For both analyses, the racial/ethnic differences in blood pressure control persisted even after further adjustment for modifiable health behaviors, which included medication adherence in secondary analyses (P<0.001 for both analyses). Although population-level adoption of healthy behaviors may contribute to reduction of the societal burden of cardiovascular disease in general, these findings suggest that racial/ethnic differences in some health behaviors do not explain the disparities in hypertension prevalence and control.

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