Black American Division I Athletes Linked to Higher Hypertension Levels and Low-Energy In New N.C. A&T Study


Black American Division I Athletes may be linked with higher hypertension and low-energy availability, according to a new study by North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Conducted alongside researchers from the University of North Carolina, the Hairston College and the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, the study consisted of 23 participants.

Out of the participants, all of whom were Black American Division I athletes, 14 of the athletes, or about 61% of the participants, were found to have high blood pressure. Of these 14 athletes, 87% were found to have a calorie deficiency. All of the participants had micronutrient deficiencies.

With deficiencies of calcium, vitamin D, iron, poly-unsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids, the athletes are at an increased risk for cardiovascular health issues, according to lead author Dr. Troy Purdom, Ph.D. Overall, Black American athletes are ten times more at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

“LEA puts the athlete in starvation mode, which creates a systemwide physiological response that when consistently reoccurring can perpetuate deterioration of several systems – gastrointestinal distress, compromised reproductive health in women and men, psychological health, and as it turns out, cardiovascular health,” said Purdom per an official release. “The elevated risk of hypertension puts athletes at an increased risk of sudden cardiac death, as well as experiencing about a two times greater risk of hypertension development in a five-year follow up.”

Cardiovascular issues in general are a concern for Black Americans as they are amongst the racial and ethnic groups that are most often diagnosed with the health issues.

According to the latest information provided by the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease was found to be an underlying cause of death for nearly one million Americans in the U.S. in 2020.

Of the people who were diagnosed with the health disease, Black Americans had the highest prevalence of cardiovascular disease.

Both Black American men and Black American women made up 59% of male and female patients diagnosed with cardiovascular disease in the span of three years from 2017 to 2020.

Hypertension is another notable issue, particularly for Black American men.

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, high blood pressure is more common in Black adults overall when compared to white, Hispanic or non-Hispanic adults.

Approximately 54% of Americans diagnosed with hypertension are Black Americans.

With the newest study, researchers at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University are hoping to draw attention to these increased rates of cardiovascular disease and hypertension for Black Americans and Black American athletes in particular.

“Our hope is to heighten awareness of the prevalence of cardiovascular disease as a result of nutritional deficiencies in athletes and why those deficiencies occur, which historically has not been prioritized by the research community,” said Purdom per a release. “Our goal is for all N.C. A&T athletes to participate in a healthy, resilient and thriving culture built on evidence-based practice.”

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