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The True Link Between Blacks, Hypertension?

May 25, 1990

Re "Reducing High Blood Pressure" (May 15): It has been de rigueur for 20 years or more to associate salt with hypertension. In the case of African-Americans, the association and other dietary issues becomes the sole explanatory variables for hypertension.

Insufficient cross-cultural studies have been done on African American variations in blood pressures in the United States, Africa and other parts of the world.

Moreover, it is apparent to anyone who has lived and worked in the African-American community that the culprit causing hypertension and the one that explains most of the variance is the stress of being African American itself with guaranteed questioning of one's character, one's honesty, one's employability and one's right to exist free and with dignity. This explanation is politically hot to most federal granting agencies and the major players will not underwrite research to examine this alternative explanation sufficiently.

The concern is that most attempts will be made by researchers, African-American and white, to emphasize genetic or other predispositions to hypertension among African-Americans to the exclusion of psychosocial data showing the devastating effects of prolonged social stress that is of equal and compelling significance.

Remove the barriers to employment, the despair, the lack of what sociobiologists call "life chances," and then take a reading. We may find that the blood pressures of African-Americans may fall just as precipitously as they rose.

E. FREDERICK ANDERSON, Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Social Work, USC

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