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Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death in older adults. Uncontrolled blood pressure is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease. African Americans have poorer blood pressure control than non-Hispanic whites. Little is known about whether this difference persists in older ages or the factors that contribute to this racial gap.
Data were obtained from participants of the Chicago Health and Aging Program. Blood pressure control was defined according to JNC-7 criteria. Univariate chi-square analyses were used to determine racial differences in hypertension and blood pressure control, whereas sequential multivariate logistic regression models were used to determine the effect of race on blood pressure control.
African Americans had a higher prevalence of hypertension (74% vs 63%; p < .001), higher awareness of hypertension (81% vs 72%; p < .001), and poorer blood pressure control (45% vs 51%, p < .001) than non-Hispanic whites. Racial differences in blood pressure control persisted after adjustment for socioeconomic status, medical conditions, obesity, and use of antihypertensive medications (odds ratio = 0.84, 95% confidence interval = 0.70-0.94). From 1993 to 2008, blood pressure control improved more among non-Hispanic whites than among African Americans.
Racial differences in blood pressure control in older adults were not explained by socioeconomic status. The racial disparity in the prevalence and control of hypertension remained consistent for older hypertensive individuals eligible for Medicare. Although the rates of hypertension control improved for both racial groups, the improvement was greater among whites, thus widening the gap in this older population at high risk for cardiovascular disease.