ATLANTA -- Puerto Ricans have a higher death rate linked to high blood pressure than blacks, whites or other Hispanic-Americans do, federal health researchers said Thursday in one of the first analyses of specific U.S. Hispanic populations. Health officials don't know why and said more study is needed to find the cause. One expert said it could be related to health care, diet or genetics.
Puerto Rican-Americans had 154 high blood pressure-related deaths per 100,000 people in 2002, according to the researchers' review of death certificate data.
For Mexican-Americans, the rate was 134.5 and for Cuban-Americans, 82.5 that year. Among non-Hispanics, the black rate was 138, and the white rate was 136.
It's not clear why the Puerto Rican death rate was so high, said Dr. Carma Ayala, the report's lead author and an epidemiologist with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We really need to do more studies to find that out," she said.
Of all racial groups, blacks have the highest rate of high blood pressure, and Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites have the condition at about the same rate.
The report was published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Previous studies have focused on differences between blacks, whites and Hispanics, but this may be the first to look at the differences between Hispanic sub-populations, said Dr. Steven V. Manoukian, a cardiologist and official with the American Heart Association.
The data is important because it may lead to new clinical studies and public health education efforts, he said.
High blood pressure - also known as hypertension - is considered a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and an important predictor of premature death and disability. The condition can result from obesity and physical inactivity.
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