Electrocardiographic findings in a healthy biracial population. Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study Investigators

Am J Cardiol. 1998 Feb 15;81(4):453-9. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9149(97)00937-5.


It has been well documented that the prevalence of certain electrocardiographic (ECG) findings among individuals free of coronary heart disease (CHD) differs by race. However, it is not known whether these differences exist independently of CHD risk factors (e.g., hypertension). We examined the ECG tracings of 2,686 apparently healthy, middle-aged African-American and white men and women who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study and were at low risk of CHD. Using the Minnesota Code, among men, 46% of African-Americans, but only 25% of whites, had a minor ECG finding (p < 0.001). In women, 32% of African-Americans and 23% of whites had a minor ECG finding (p < 0.01). Specifically, the age-adjusted prevalences of high-amplitude R wave, ST elevation, T-wave findings, and prolonged P-R interval were statistically significantly higher in African-Americans. As for continuous ECG measurements, the R wave in leads V5 and V6, the S wave in V1, the J-point amplitude in leads V2 and V5, the P-R interval, and the Cornell voltage (¿S V3¿ + R aVL) for left ventricular hypertrophy were all significantly greater in African-Americans than in whites. However, in both men and women, the heart rate corrected QT interval was shorter in African-Americans than in whites. All of these findings remained statistically significant after further adjustment for traditional CHD risk factors. These results suggest that racial differences in electrocardiograms may not be explained entirely by differences in established CHD risk factors, and because current diagnostic ECG criteria are largely based on data from middle-aged white men and women, race should be considered in the interpretation of ECG findings.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Blacks*
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Whites*


  • Cholesterol