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Perceived discrimination linked to coronary artery calcification

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 30 The more discrimination African-American women report, the more likely they are to have coronary artery calcification, a buildup of calcium in the vessels that is associated with atherosclerosis, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association's 45th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

These results indicate that chronic exposure to discrimination might increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in African-American women, the researchers reported.

"We know from other studies in this area that stressful life experiences can have an effect on cardiovascular outcomes," said Ten Lewis, Ph.D., a health psychologist in preventive medicine at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago. "Discrimination appears to be a stressor that has particular relevance for the health of African-American women."

Previous research has suggested that social status stressors in the form of discrimination and unfair treatment may have a negative impact on a variety of risk factors for heart disease, she said. "Most of these studies have focused on clinically manifest disease, which may actually underestimate the impact of discrimination on cardiovascular outcomes."

This research, which used a subset of the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) Heart study, examined the relationship between chronic exposure to discrimination and subclinical outcomes such as coronary artery calcification. Such calcification is believed to be a measure of overall atherosclerotic plaque burden, with some studies finding that arterial calcification is predictive of clinical events such as heart attack.

The study included 181 African-American women, ages 45 to 58, from the Chicago, and Pittsburgh, Pa., areas. The women answered a nine-item Everyday Discrimination Questionnaire regarding their experience of discrimination and the results were averaged over a four-year period. Coronary artery ca
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Contact: Carole Bullock
carole.bullock@heart.org
214-706-1279
American Heart Association
30-Apr-2005


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