High Blood Pressure Linked To Racially Segregated Neighborhoods

woman holding miniature houseLiving in racially segregated neighborhoods is associated with a rise in the blood pressure of black adults, while moving away from segregated areas is associated with a decrease — and significant enough to lead to reductions in heart attacks and strokes, a National Institutes of Health-funded study has found.

The findings, reported in the May issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, offer further evidence that policies to reduce residential racial segregation may have meaningful health benefits, especially for African-Americans, who suffer the highest rates of hypertension of any group in the United States.

Residential segregation, the separation of groups into different neighborhoods by race, has long been identified as a major cause of health disparities between blacks and whites. This is the first study to explore whether increases or decreases in residential segregation specifically affect blood pressure.

“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 David Goff, M.D., director of the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH.

“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.”