Heart failure in young adults much more common in blacks, new study finds

By Lauren Hammit

As many as 1 in 100 black men and women develop heart failure before the age of 50, 20 times the rate in whites in this age group, according to new findings published in the March 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine by a UCSF research team.

Study findings showed that heart failure developed in black participants at an average age of 39, often preceded by risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, and chronic kidney disease 10 to 20 years earlier.

“Through this long-term study, we saw the clear links between the development of risk factors and the onset of disease one to two decades later. Targeting these risk factors for screening and treatment during young adulthood could be important for heart failure prevention,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, MD, lead author on the study and assistant professor in medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF.

Additional UCSF authors were Mark J. Pletcher, MD; Stephen B. Hulley, MD; Eric Vittinghoff, PhD, and Feng Lin.  Julius M. Gardin, MD, from Hackensack University Medical Center; Alexander Arynchyn, MD, Cora E. Lewis, MD, and O. Dale Williams, PhD, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, also contributed to the study.

The study includes 5,115 black and white men and women (52 percent black, 55 percent women) who were age 18-30 at the start of the study, recruited from Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Minneapolis, and Oakland, Calif.  Participants were followed for 20 years, with physical exams conducted every few years and telephone interviews every six months. 

“The disproportionate rate at which heart failure impacts relatively young African-Americans in this country underscores the importance of recognizing and treating risk factors for heart disease,” said Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD, director of the NIH’s National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, which funded the study.

Original Article: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/360/12/1179

Link to NEJM: http://content.nejm.org/

Link to NHLBI: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/