Can a person’s race affect the way their heart pumps blood through the body? It seems like a ridiculous, not to mention racist, question. Yet the surprising results of a new study Can a person’s race affect the way their heart pumps blood through the body? conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reveal that the heart muscles of African Americans actually contract at a 1% to 3% weaker rate than those of other racial and ethnic groups. The research also found that Chinese Americans’ hearts had a consistently stronger contracting action compared with other population groups.

The first-of-its-kind study, called the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), included a racially diverse sample of nearly 7,000 Americans ages 45 to 84 with no symptoms of heart disease. The researchers measured more than a dozen heart performance factors, including pumping volume, thickness of the heart wall and contraction of the heart muscle. The racial variations in heart pumping occurred consistently regardless of age, gender or the presence of risk factors such as high blood pressure.

The MESA findings may help explain why African Americans suffer so disproportionately from heart failure and other serious cardiovascular diseases. Even more important, this discovery could lead to new treatment interventions that could help close the gap of unequal CVD outcomes for black Americans. “[By using screening techniques such as periodic MRI scans or echocardiograms], we could detect early clinical disease in [black] people who are asymptomatic and treat them more aggressively,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Veronica Fernandes, told HealthDay News.

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