Background: Most previous studies investigating the association between ethnicity and hypertension focused on differences between African Americans and whites and did not include other racial/ethnic groups such as Chinese or Hispanics.
Methods: We used data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), a population-based study of 6814 adults without clinical cardiovascular disease, to examine the association between ethnicity and hypertension and hypertension treatment among white, African American, Chinese, and Hispanic ethnic groups.
Results: The prevalence of hypertension, defined as systolic blood pressure (BP) <140 mm Hg and diastolic BP <90 mm Hg or self-reported treatment for hypertension, was significantly higher in African Americans compared to whites (60% v 38%; P < .0001), whereas prevalence in Hispanic (42%) and Chinese participants (39%) did not differ significantly from that in whites. After adjustment for age, body mass index, prevalence of diabetes mellitus, and smoking, African American (odds ratio [OR] 2.21; 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 1.91-2.56) and Chinese (OR 1.30; 95% CI 1.07-1.56) ethnicity were significantly associated with hypertension compared to whites. Among hypertensive MESA participants, the percentage of treated but uncontrolled hypertension in whites (24%) was significantly lower than in African Americans (35%, P < .0001), Chinese (33%, P = .003), and Hispanics (32%, P = .0005), but only African-American race/ethnicity remained significantly associated with treated but uncontrolled hypertension after controlling for socioeconomic factors (OR 1.35; 95% CI 1.07-1.71). Diuretic use was lowest in the Chinese (22%) and Hispanic participants (32%) and was significantly lower in these groups compared with white participants (47%; P < .0001 for both comparisons).
Conclusions: Programs to improve hypertension treatment and control should focus on a better understanding of differences in the prevalence of hypertension and hypertension control among minority groups in the United States, especially African Americans, compared with whites, and on techniques to prevent hypertension and improve control in high-risk groups.