04/03/2013 05:00 pm ET

Heart Failure Risk Similar In Both White And Black Races: Study

Your lifetime risk of developing heart failure is the same whether you're black or white, say researchers from Northwestern University in a study published this week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. And regardless of race, that risk is high, the study authors warned.

Analyzing data from 39,000 participants in National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute-sponsored cohorts Northwestern Medicine researcher Mark Huffman, M.D. and his colleagues estimated the lifetime risks for developing heart failure at age 45 through 95. They also explored the relationships between lifetime heart failure risk and risk factors such as obesity, blood pressure and prior heart attack.

Here's what they found:
  • Whites and blacks with higher blood pressure and higher body mass index had a higher lifetime risk for heart failure.
  • White males have the highest lifetime risk for heart failure, 30 to 42 percent
  • Lifetime heart failure risk for black and white women is similar, 32 to 39 percent in white women, 24 to 46 percent in black women.

Though rates of heart failure appeared to be lower for black men than for whites at 20 to 29 percent, according to the authors of the report, the difference is more likely the result of higher rates of other causes of death that are common among African-American men, such as homicide, renal failure, and HIV infection, they noted.

"Heart failure is a disease of the aging, and on average, black men in America tend to have higher competing risks for death earlier in life," Huffman said in a release. "Because competing risks are higher, which is itself a major problem, relatively fewer black men have the opportunity to develop heart failure compared to white men in these studies, because they die sooner of other causes."

According to the U.S. National Library Of Medicine, heart failure is often a long-term (chronic) condition, though it can sometimes develop suddenly. Symptoms, including coughing, fatigue and loss of appetite, often begin slowly and may only occur when you are very active. Over time, you may notice breathing problems and other symptoms even when you are resting.



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