Black Americans are at greater risk for sudden cardiac arrest than white Americans


Black Americans are more likely to experience sudden cardiac arrest and at a much earlier age than their white compatriots, according to research published in Circulation.

Researchers also found that the black population had higher rates of well-established risk factors for cardiovascular disease than the white population, including diabetes (52% vs 33%), high blood pressure (77% vs 65%), and chronic kidney failure (34% vs 19%).

“Cardiac arrest is recognised by the bad company it keeps, so the mantra has been: prevent coronary artery disease, prevent sudden cardiac death,” says Sumeet S Chugh, lead author of the study and associate director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, USA.

“As healthcare professionals, we should be aware of a broader spectrum of risk factors for our black patients. If we only focus on reducing coronary artery disease, we are unlikely to offer them the same benefit we offer white patients.”

For the study, researchers collected data on 1,745 white and 179 black residents in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area who experienced sudden cardiac arrest between 2002 and 2012.

Researchers found that blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to experience sudden cardiac arrest, and that on average, blacks were more than six years younger than whites at the time of sudden cardiac arrest. Among blacks, the majority were younger than 65 when their sudden cardiac arrest occurred, while among whites, the majority were older than 65.

Black patients who experienced sudden cardiac arrest had the same rates as white patients of coronary artery disease, long considered the strongest predictor of risk. However, three non-coronary heart problems were significantly more prevalent among blacks than whites-congestive heart failure (43% vs 34%), left ventricular hypertrophy (77% vs 58%), and a longer QT interval, indicating a problem with the heart’s electrical system.

“In black patients, we found our study reinforces the importance of a healthy lifestyle to avoid developing certain sudden cardiac arrest risk factors, including high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic kidney disease,” Chugh says.

Researchers believe the study results should be replicated in other communities and recently expanded their study to Ventura County in California, which has a large Latino population.