Blacks with a "suspicious, hostile personality" have higher blood pressure than whites with the same tendencies, according to a report presented on Friday at the American Psychosomatic Society meeting in Baltimore, USA Today reports.
Significant variations in blood pressure, as well as a person's tendency toward suspicious and hostile behavior, have been linked to cardiovascular disease, Duke University psychologist and study co-author James Lane said.
For the study, Lane and Redford Williams measured the blood pressure of 152 healthy black and white adults over a 24-hour period to determine whether participants with the most hostile or suspicious behavior had more variability in their blood pressure levels. Blacks with the most hostility had roughly 25% more variability in blood pressure readings than less hostile blacks and whites. Researchers also found that the most hostile white participants had no more variability in their readings than other whites or blacks.
Lane said, "Hostility may be a more important heart disease risk factor for blacks than whites." He added that hostile blacks "may interpret innocuous events as threatening" and perceive more threats than others, "and then you get the fight-or-flight response, which raises their blood pressure."
Vickie Mays, a psychologist and director of a UCLA center on minority health disparities, said that "things are not as innocuous as they seem if you've had bad experiences before," adding, "A white person could walk down the street and see a policeman and think he's just directing traffic, but an African-American may feel less safe because of what's happened to him in the past."
She suggested that blacks try to "reframe" incidents. "You need to think, 'If I let myself go there, it's bad for my health, it's not bad for their health,'" Mays said.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation