African Americans Get Few Heart-Protecting Drugs

African Americans are less likely than their white counterparts to be prescribed heart-protecting medications or undergo bypass surgery to treat blocked heart arteries, a new study finds.

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Fewer heart-protecting drugs are prescribed to African Americans, which may help to explain why heart disease rates in the Black community are not dropping as quickly

The findings, based on data for nearly 475,000 VA patients, found that African Americans had lower rates of prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering statins, as well as ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers used to treat high blood pressure and certain heart problems. They were, however, more likely than white patients to be on aspirin.

At the same time, black patients were less likely than whites to have undergone coronary bypass surgery. The procedure is performed to reroute blood flow around heart-artery blockages, with the goal of relieving serious chest pain known as angina, and reducing the risk of heart attack.

Researchers say these racial gaps in drug prescriptions and bypass may help explain why heart disease deaths are not declining as rapidly among African Americans compared with other racial groups in the U.S.

"It's likely this may be a result of the lesser use of these strategies," lead researcher Dr. Jawahar L. Mehta, of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, said in an interview.

The U.S. has seen an overall drop in heart disease deaths in recent decades, but African Americans remain at greater risk. In 2006, the heart disease death rate among white men was 245 per 100,000 men, while there were 321 deaths per 100,000 black men, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Continue reading from the SOURCE: REUTERS