Blacks experience greater multi-system physiological dysregulation, or cumulative biological risk, which is associated with poor cardiometabolic health and mortality. In this study, we assess race differences in change in risk over four years among older whites, blacks and Hispanics.
We examined race differences in 4-year change in individual biomarkers and a cumulative measure of risk—cardiometabolic risk (CMR)—using data for each respondent from two waves of the Health and Retirement Study’s biomarker assessment (n=5,512). CMR is a count of high-risk cardiovascular and metabolic biomarkers. We estimated mean CMR at baseline and follow-up by race/ethnicity, and used logistic regression to determine whether race differences exist in 4-year transitions between high- and low-risk states for individual biomarkers.
Blacks had higher baseline CMR than whites and Hispanics and experienced an increase in risk over four years; conversely, CMR decreased among whites and Hispanics. Blacks were more likely to develop high-risk pulse pressure and high-risk hemoglobin A1c, which contributed to increases in CMR. Whites and Hispanics were more likely to become low-risk on C-reactive protein and HDL cholesterol which contributed to declines in CMR. Race differences in transitions between risk states remained after controlling for social, behavioral and health care related factors. However, the racial patterning of these differences was influenced by disease diagnosis and medication use.
We show that the cardiometabolic health of older blacks worsens as they age both absolutely and relative to that of whites and Hispanics because of poor blood pressure control and diabetes prevention.