Background: The current study was designed to examine the cross-sectional association between perceived discrimination and blood pressure (BP) in a sample of older African American and white adults. We hypothesized that perceived discrimination would be associated with higher levels of BP and that this association would be stronger for older African Americans compared with whites.
Methods: Participants were 4,694 (60% African American, 60% women) community-dwelling older adults. Perceived discrimination and other relevant risk factors were assessed via interview, and BP was measured using standard sphygmomanometers. Multivariate linear regression models were conducted to test associations among race, perceived discrimination, and BP.
Results: In models adjusted for age, sex, race, and education, perceived discrimination was not associated with higher levels of systolic blood pressure (p=.10) but was associated with higher levels of diastolic blood pressure (DBP) (p=.01). Further analyses revealed that the association between perceived discrimination and DBP was present in older African Americans (p=.0003) but not whites (p=.46). Results persisted after adjusting for relevant risk factors.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that discrimination may be a unique risk factor for elevated DBP in older African Americans. Because these findings are cross-sectional, additional research is needed to determine whether the observed associations persist over time.