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Stress linked to behaviors increase heart disease, stroke risk in African-Americans

Daily stressors are associated with poor health behaviors that put African-American adults at greater risk of heart disease and stroke, a new study finds.

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The results suggest that primary care doctors, cardiologists and other health care providers should ask their patients about stress to help them identify ways to manage and improve health outcomes, said Dr. LaPrincess C. Brewer, lead author of the Mayo Clinic-led study.

“The simple act of recognition of stress in our patients speaks volumes to them,” said Brewer, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “[Talking about stress] also fosters a more genuine patient-physician relationship.”

In the study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, Brewer and her colleagues analyzed stress-related information along with behavioral and clinical data from 4,383 participants in the Jackson Heart Study, a Mississippi-based long-term study of cardiovascular disease in African-American adults.

The researchers used the American Heart Association’s Life Simple 7 measures to categorize each participant’s cardiovascular health as poor, intermediate or ideal. The measures include smoking, diet, physical activity, body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar level.

Participants also completed surveys about their exposure to chronic stress, minor stressors and major life events, such as the death of a family member. The study found that African-American adults with higher stress levels were more likely to have overall poor cardiovascular health.

Longtime health disparities researcher Michelle Cardel said the study’s findings add to existing research on the health of African-Americans that shows stress is linked to quality of health.

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