THURSDAY, May 6, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Young Black American women have high rates of lifestyle-related risk factors for heart disease, a new study indicates.
The findings show the need to help them adopt healthy eating and physical activity habits, as well as make it easier for them to access health care, the researchers said.
"Young people should be the healthiest members of our population, with normal body weight and normal blood pressure," said study author Dr. Nishant Vatsa, an internal medicine resident at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
"Diet and exercise play a major role in blood pressure and weight. Primary care providers, prevention-based clinics and community organizations can facilitate interventions proven to mitigate these risk factors," Vatsa said. "Providers that treat young Black women need to be mindful of cardiovascular preventive care and be armed with resources and education."
In the study, Vatsa's team analyzed data gathered between 2015 and 2018 from 945 Black women enrolled in a community health screening project in Atlanta. The average body mass index (BMI -- an estimate of body fat based on weight and height) in all age groups was 30, which is considered obese.
Systolic blood pressure -- the top number in a reading and a measure of the force of blood pushing against artery walls during a heartbeat -- was higher than normal among younger women and increased with age.
Average systolic blood pressure among those aged 20 to 39 was 122 mm Hg, while 120 mm Hg is considered normal by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association. Middle-aged and older women had an average systolic blood pressure of nearly 133 and 142, respectively.
Obesity and high blood pressure are major risk factors for heart disease, and both are affected by lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise.
Nearly one-third of women aged 20 to 39 said they ate fast food at least three times a week, and 2 of 5 had a higher-than-recommended daily salt intake.
Those rates were also high in middle-aged women but lower among those over 60, according to the study to be presented May 16 at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) virtual annual meeting. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"We're finding obesity and elevated blood pressure are present in women even at younger ages, which is worrisome," Vatsa said in an ACC news release. "Thus, interventions like educating young women about healthy dietary choices and the benefits of exercise, improving access to health care and enhancing the ability for people to adopt healthy practices -- such as increasing access to healthy foods and safe areas for physical activity -- need to start early."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on preventing high blood pressure.
SOURCE: American College of Cardiology, news release, May 5, 2021