Monday, March 25, 2024

Why Do Black People Have Higher Blood Pressure and Worse Outcomes?

    Black Americans have been known to have increased incidences of high blood pressure and more severe outcomes than their white counterparts. In this American Heart Association article, the authors discuss both possible social and genetic causes for this reality. Genetic research into this phenomenon has been notoriously taboo and difficult to conduct. Many professionals, with the understanding that race is a socially contracted identifier, avoid using it as a research foundation. This is done with the belief that focusing on race will only further misconceptions and institutional racism. This article, however, points out that the impact of this racial disparity cannot be rectified without targeted research. Considering Black Americans are showing higher and more severe cases of hypertension while simultaneously being less responsive to treatment, a lack of research only serves to to amplify the health disparity.
    SSBP is a trait in which changes in blood pressure directly corresponds to salt sensitivity. It is a major risk factor for hypertension. Individuals with the SS (salt-sensitive) expression are more likely to experience high blood pressure than those that are SR (salt-resistant). It has also been found that Black people are more likely to be salt sensitive. The mechanism of this trait is still debated and not widely researched. Despite this, the article uses epigenetics and the socioeconomic climate to loosely connect this occurrence to slavery.
    The Theory: An African diet with low salt content lends itself to increased salt sensitivity. Once these sensitive individuals were enslaved and transported across the world, the harsh travel conditions led to many deaths and limited gene variation. In the modern day African Americans, SS was likely passed down through generations. This was then exasterbated by decreased avaliability of nutrition and regular health care. 
    Overall, I found this paper to be enlightening and very influential. It is not mean to point fingers, but to encourage further genetic research into this subject for the benefit a historically neglected people. It is important to understand how the human body works for all people. Even more so, it is important to understand how the actions we take and the environment we live in can alter/influence function. In the future, I would like to see a response to this paper that boldly identifies the mechanisms of SSBP in relation to race and offers treatment or life style adjustments for improved outcomes. 

Figure 1.

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