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A recent study from Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine highlights has shown a link between racism and a 26% increased risk of coronary heart disease in African American women. The research connects experiences of racism in housing, employment, and police interactions to heightened cardiovascular concerns.

CHD disproportionately affects black women

Coronary heart disease (CHD) disproportionately affects Black women, leading to higher rates of heart attacks compared to White women. African American women also experience earlier onset and increased mortality from cardiac events. This study reveals a lack of prior knowledge on the link between perceived racism and cardiovascular risk among this demographic.

Corresponding author Shanshan Sheehy at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine said that the study presents longitudinal evidence linking perceived interpersonal racism to increased incident cardiovascular risk in Black women. Higher levels of perceived racism correlate with a heightened risk of coronary heart disease, highlighting the importance of addressing racism’s impact on health outcomes.

In a study of 48,000 participants from the Black Women’s Health Study spanning 22 years, researchers investigated the link between self-perceived interpersonal racism and coronary heart disease. In 1997, none had cardiovascular disease or cancer.

Perceived interpersonal racism linked to increased cardiovascular disease risk

By 2019, 1,947 women developed coronary heart disease. Initial responses to questions about experiences of interpersonal racism were analyzed. The study also examined unfair treatment based on race in housing, employment, and police interactions. The findings suggest a potential association between self-perceived interpersonal racism and increased coronary heart disease risk.

The study assessed perceived interpersonal racism scores in employment, housing, and police interactions by aggregating positive responses. Self-perceived racism scores ranged from zero to three. Analysis revealed that Black women experiencing racism in all three categories had a 26% higher risk of heart disease compared to those facing less discrimination.

Professor Sheehy notes that different types of perceived racism may be reported with varying accuracy by participants, with experiences in job, housing, and police interactions potentially having a more lasting impact on Black women’s social, emotional, and physical well-being compared to daily life encounters.