Cardiac risk underestimation in urban, black women

J Gen Intern Med. 2005 Dec;20(12):1127-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2005.00252.x.


Background: Black women have a disproportionately higher incidence of cardiovascular disease mortality than other groups and the reason for this health disparity is incompletely understood. Underestimation of personal cardiac risk may play a role.

Objective: We investigated the personal characteristics associated with underestimating cardiovascular disease in black women.

Design, setting, participants: Trained surveyors interviewed 128 black women during the baseline evaluation for a randomized controlled trial in an urban, academic continuity clinic affiliated with a public hospital system. They provided information on the presence of cardiac risk factors and demographic and psychosocial characteristics. These self-report data were supplemented with medical record abstraction for weight.

Measurements and main results: The main outcome measure was the accurate perception of cardiac risk. Objective risk was determined by a simple count of major cardiac risk factors and perceived risk by respondent's answer to a survey question about personal cardiac risk. The burden of cardiac risk factors was high in this population: 77% were obese; 72% had hypertension; 48% had high cholesterol; 49% had a family history of heart disease; 31% had diabetes, and 22% currently used tobacco. Seventy-nine percent had 3 or more cardiac risk factors. Among those with 3 or more risk factors ("high risk"), 63% did not perceive themselves to be at risk for heart disease. Among all patients, objective and perceived cardiac risk was poorly correlated (kappa=0.026). In a multivariable model, increased perceived personal stress and lower income were significant correlates of underestimating cardiac risk.

Conclusions: Urban, disadvantaged black women in this study had many cardiac risk factors, yet routinely underestimated their risk of heart disease. We found that the strongest correlates of underestimation were perceived stress and lower personal income.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Black or African American*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / ethnology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Racial Groups
  • Risk
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Stress, Psychological
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Population