Clues about African American Heart Health

By Andy Coghlan, NewScientist.com

The clot thickens. We now have a clearer idea of why black Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to develop heart disease. It seems that fragments circulating in the blood, known as platelets, can form blood clots more easily in African Americans. Clotting is a classic element of heart disease and heart attack.

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“Unexpectedly, we found that platelets from black donors clotted faster and to a greater extent in response to the naturally occurring clotting agent, thrombin,” says Paul Bray of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who led the work. “This provides a new understanding of the effects of race on heart disease and other blood-clot related illnesses.”

Bray and his colleagues took blood samples from 70 black and 84 white healthy volunteers and found that a protein known as PC-TP, short for phosphatidylcholine transfer protein, is one of the main culprits. PC-TP activates a clotting factor called PAR4.

The gene that produces the protein is four times more active in the platelets of black Americans than it is in white Americans. (. . .) “Compared with white patients, black people have a twofold increased incidence of heart disease and a lower long-term survival,” he says. “The reasons for this disparity are complex, but even when socioeconomic and environmental factors are considered, the survival of black heart attack patients is two-and-a-half times lower than in white patients.”

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An important implication, says Bray, is that we need to develop a wider array of treatments to make sure that there are drugs that work for everyone.

“Black people are very poorly represented in most clinical studies on heart disease,” he says. “Our findings suggest doctors cannot therefore assume that heart disease treatment studies on whites will hold true for everyone.”

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More ABHM breaking news.

Room4Debate: Are Black Women Fat Because They Want to Be?

In an opinion piece for the New York Times, author Alice Randall describes the obsesity epidemic in the black community and argues that many black women want to be fat. Randall states:

“What we need is a body-culture revolution in black America. Why? Because too many experts who are involved in the discussion of obesity don’t understand something crucial about black women and fat: many black women are fat because we want to be.

The black poet Lucille Clifton’s 1987 poem “Homage to My Hips” begins with the boast, “These hips are big hips.” She establishes big black hips as something a woman would want to have and a man would desire. She wasn’t the first or the only one to reflect this community knowledge. Twenty years before, in 1967, Joe Tex, a black Texan, dominated the radio airwaves across black America with a song he wrote and recorded, “Skinny Legs and All.” One of his lines haunts me to this day: “some man, somewhere who’ll take you baby, skinny legs and all.” For me, it still seems almost an impossibility.

Chemically, in its ability to promote disease, black fat may be the same as white fat. Culturally it is not.”

What are your thoughts?

Read more of the story here.

African American Female HIV Rates Now Rival Africa

As we prepare to recognize National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day, a new research study has served as a wake up call for a community that might have gone too far.  The Center for Disease Control now estimates that 1 out of every 32 black women will be infected with HIV during her lifetime.  Although black women represent only 14 percent of the US female population, they constitute 66 percent of all new HIV infections.   The infection rates of black women in the United States rival those in the Congo and Kenya.

Read more of the story here.