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MONDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that race, gender and where you live strongly affect your risk for high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Deaths from heart disease and stroke in the United States decreased 65 percent overall between 1968 and 2006, but rates of cardiovascular death are still higher in the southeastern United States, in blacks compared to whites, and in men compared to women.
Study author Dr. Deborah A. Levine and colleagues suspected high blood pressure may play a role in these differences. They examined data from 3,436 people in Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland, Calif., who took part in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.
The participants were aged 18 to 30 when they enrolled in the study and none of them had high blood pressure. After 20 years of follow-up, high blood pressure had been diagnosed in:
37.6 percent of black women, 34.5 percent of black men, 21.4 percent of white men and 12.3 percent of white women.
33.6 percent of Birmingham residents, 27.4 percent in Oakland, Calif., 23.4 percent in Chicago and 19 percent in Minneapolis.
After they adjusted for a number of risk factors, the researchers concluded that living in Birmingham significantly increased the risk of developing high blood pressure.
"In addition, independently of where they live, blacks -- especially black women -- are at markedly higher risk of hypertension even after we took into account factors that are known to affect blood pressure, such as physical activity and obesity," Levine, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in an American Heart Association news release.
Further research is needed to learn more about how race, gender and geography affect high blood pressure risk, she added.
The study appears in the Dec. 6 online issue of the journal Hypertension.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about high blood pressure.
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