Ethnic differences in older americans: awareness, knowledge, and beliefs about hypertension

Eni C Okonofua, Neal E Cutler, Daniel T Lackland, Brent M Egan
American Journal of Hypertension 2005, 18 (7): 972-9

BACKGROUND: Hypertension is often uncontrolled and contributes to health disparities, especially among individuals >or=50 years old. Ethnic differences in awareness, knowledge, and beliefs about hypertension may contribute to these disparities, but information is limited.

METHODS: To address this gap, data from a national telephone survey on 1503 Americans 50 years and older were used to assess ethnic differences in awareness, knowledge, and beliefs about hypertension and the relationship of the responses to self-reported blood pressure (BP) control.

RESULTS: Overall there were no ethnic differences in knowledge and beliefs about hypertension; however, there were differences in responses to specific questions. African Americans were more knowledgeable about the definition of hypertension and were more aware that hypertension can cause kidney failure than Hispanics and whites (64.2% v 54.8% and 46.3%, P<.0001). African American and Hispanics were more likely to perceive medications as the only way to control BP (50.5% and 55.5% v 23.3%, P<.0001), whereas whites reported lifestyle changes as more important than African Americans in BP control. Comparing self-reported BP control between ethnic groups, belief that medications are not the only way to treat BP (odds ratio [OR] 2.37, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.43-3.95) and knowledge that moderation of alcohol use can lower BP (OR 2.34, 95% CI 1.20-4.57) were significantly associated with higher BP control rates.

CONCLUSIONS: Ethnic differences in specific dimensions of knowledge and beliefs about hypertension exist and account for some of the disparities in BP control. Culturally appropriate educational programs that address these deficiencies may reduce disparities.

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