News Health/Medical Interpersonal Racism and Heart Health in Black Women

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Interpersonal Racism Linked to Heart Problems in Black Women

By Copilot, March 21, 2024


Recent research sheds light on the relationship between interpersonal racism and heart health in Black women. The study, conducted by Boston University epidemiologist Dr. Shanshan Sheehy, delves into the impact of perceived racism on coronary heart disease (CHD) among this demographic.

The Study

Dr. Sheehy's study analyzed data from nearly 50,000 Black women, spanning from 1997 to the present. The focus was on two measures of perceived interpersonal racism:

  • Experiences of Racism: Participants reported instances of racism in employment, housing, and interactions with the police.
  • Racism in Everyday Life: Participants reflected on their daily encounters with racism.


The results revealed a significant association:

Black women who experienced self-reported interpersonal racism in employment, housing, and police interactions faced a 26% higher risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who did not encounter racism in these areas.

Chronic Stress and Health

Dr. Sheehy emphasized that racism acts as a chronic stressor, potentially leading to high blood pressure—a known risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. Given that many Black adults already face elevated risks due to conditions like hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, addressing racism's impact becomes crucial.


While the study's extensive data set is a strength, some limitations exist. Notably, the link between racism and heart problems became statistically insignificant after adjusting for other variables. Additionally, the medical community should exercise caution in interpreting these findings.


Understanding the role of interpersonal racism in heart health is essential. By acknowledging these disparities, we can work toward equitable healthcare and better outcomes for Black women.

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