Study: Cardiovascular Disease Affects US-Born Black Adults More Than Immigrants

The findings suggest that the broad use of race as a factor for providing certain health interventions and treatments should be reconsidered, investigators say.

Recent Black immigrants and those who have been in the United States for 15 years or longer, are less likely to die earlier from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and in general, than Black adults born in the Unites States, according to the results of a study led by Penn State College of Medicine.1

The findings suggest that the broad use of race as a factor for providing certain health interventions and treatments should be reconsidered, investigators said in a statement.1

Research has suggested that immigrants to the United States have better outcomes than those who are natives, partially because immigrants tend to have healthier lifestyles, according to investigators.

However, physicians think that the better health outcomes wane the longer the immigrant is in the United States, where cheap, highly processed food is widely accessible and consumed.1

“Even after adjusting for multiple covariates, such as socioeconomic status and education levels, these results were really surprising to us,” Alain Lekoubou Looti, MD, an assistant professor of neurology and public health sciences at the College of Medicine, said in the statement. “To see that persistent gap between Black people born elsewhere and those who were born here, we don’t have any clear or solid explanation.”1

Investigations examined data on nearly 65,000 Black individuals aged 25 to 74 years from the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey, from 2000 to 2014. The data also were linked with mortality files through 2015. Nearly 4% of the individuals were African immigrants, and 8% were from the Caribbean and Central and Latin America.1

During the period, there were 4329 deaths, with 935 caused by CVD. Additionally, 205 deaths were caused by stroke. In every case, deaths were lower among immigrants, even those who had lived in the United States for longer than 15 years.1

Investigators found that immigrants had 40% lower from CVD and 54% lower death rates overall.1

The key takeaway from this study is to stop assuming that Black individuals are a homogenous group, investigators said.1

“I think we have to be careful when we use race to identify patients because, as this research shows, when we are talking about Black people and their risk of cardiovascular disease, it may not be the same for everyone. “There are probably some differences within these groups that need to be accounted for when we are talking to those patients,” Lekoubou said.1

The research was presented at the 2022 American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference and is being reviewed for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.1

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women in most ethnic and racial groups in the United States, according to the CDC.2

In 2015, about 23.5% of all deaths caused by heart disease were among non-Hispanic Black individuals, according to the CDC.2

References

1. Cardiovascular disease affects US-born Black adults more than Black immigrants. EurekAlert. News release. May 9, 2022. Accessed May 10, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/952150

2. Heart Disease. CDC. Updated February 7, 2022. Accessed May 10, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm