Study links chronic stress to increased risk of high blood pressure in African-Americans

Chronic stress may play a key role in the development of high blood pressure in African-Americans, a new study suggests. 

Researchers have suspected for some time that high stress levels are linked to high blood pressure and that blacks report higher overall stress levels compared to whites.  Blacks are also at disproportionately high risk for developing hypertension, which in turn is a risk factor for stroke.  However, strong evidence for a link between stress and hypertension in blacks has been lacking, until now. 

In the new study, researchers explored this topic in an observation study involving more than 1,800 black participants in the Jackson Heart Study.  They found that over a seven-year period, those who reported high perceived stress levels were 22% more likely to develop high blood pressure than those with low stress levels.  The findings suggest that higher perceived stress over time independently contributes to hypertension onset in blacks, the researchers said.  

The study could help guide hypertension prevention strategies in the future, they say. The findings, partly funded by NHLBI, appeared in the Journal of the American Heart Association.