Racial Disparities in Health: The Roles of Stress, Social Relations and the Cardiovascular System
Hypertension is the number one cause of racial disparities in mortality in the U.S. Understanding the mechanisms by which race is linked with the cardiovascular system is key for potentially reducing race disparities in hypertension and hypertension related mortality. A burgeoning literature shows that African Americans (AA) are exposed to more stress across the lifespan and that lifetime adversity is associated with cardiovascular disease (CHD) and hypertension. However, mechanisms accounting for the links between longterm stress exposure, hypertension and CHD remain unclear. Cardiovascular reactivity (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure reactions to stress) is hypothesized to be a major contender as it predicts increased risk of cardiac events and mortality, especially among people with hypertension. However, the majority of population studies do not incorporate mechanistic studies of stress reactivity to understand links between long-term stress exposure and stress reactivity. The present study is guided by existing theories of racial health disparities, stress, and social relations, which suggest that racial health disparities are due to variations in long-term exposure to stress and stress reactivity (biological, psychological, behavioral) and those race differences are moderated by social relations and age.
This project has three aims:
- Test links between long-term stress exposure and short-term stress reactivity among Eurpoean American (EA) and AA adults.
- Examine age differences in long-term stress exposure and short-term reactivity by race.
- Determine how long-term social relationships moderate individual differences in stress exposure and reactivity.