African Immigrants Have Healthiest Hearts, Says New Study

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Mar 06, 2020

More than 100,000 Black people die from cardiovascular disease every year and new preliminary research from the American Heart Association (AMA) has found that Black Americans and people from the Caribbean are at a higher risk for heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases, compared to African immigrants, according to a release published on March 4.

What’s more, researchers found that Black people experience heart diseases more than their White counterparts and attribute the imbalance to other health defects, such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Researchers came to these conclusions by studying 82,000 Black people and 370,000 Whites who participated in the National Health Interview Survey from 2010 through 2018. The AMA explained that this study is important because it doesn’t lump all Black people together in the data.

“Prior research into heart disease racial disparities typically has studied only African Americans or has grouped U.S. and foreign-born Blacks without considering ethnicity, birthplace or other factors,” lead study author Diana Baptiste, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, said in the release. “The study shows that race alone doesn’t account for risk factor differences between Blacks and Whites. Among all the groups, African immigrants, who have the highest degree of African ancestry, had the lowest burden of risk factors.”

Additional highlights from the study show that:


  • High blood pressure was 17% for African immigrants; 32% for Afro-Caribbeans; 42% for African Americans and 34% for Whites.
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  • Smoking was 5% for African immigrants; 8% for Afro-Caribbeans; 18% for African Americans and 16% for Whites.
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  • Diabetes was 9% for African immigrants; 19% for Afro-Caribbeans; 15% for African Americans and 10% for Whites.
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  • Overweight/obesity was 60% for African immigrants; 68% for Afro-Caribbeans; 76% for African Americans and 66% for Whites.
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Baptiste and her team say they were surprised by the results, considering that fewer African immigrants have insurance compared to American Blacks and Afro-Caribbeans, even though Africans are more likely to have higher levels of education. The findings suggest that "environmental, psychological and social differences could help account for differences" in heart health, according to the release.

Researchers advocate Black subgroups be defined and studied separately in medical research. 

To see the full preliminary report, visit the AMA here.