Racial disparities in health, including elevated rates of hypertension (HT) among Blacks, are widely recognized and a matter of serious concern. Researchers have hypothesized that social stress, and in particular exposure to racism, may account for some of the between-group differences in the prevalence of HT and a portion of the within-group variations in risk for HT. However, there have been surprisingly few empirical studies of the relationship between perceived racism and blood pressure (BP) or cardiovascular reactivity (CVR), a possible marker of mechanisms culminating in cardiovascular disease. This article reviews published literature investigating the relationship of perceived racism to HT-related variables, including self-reported history of HT, BP level, or CVR. Strengths and weaknesses of the existing research are discussed to permit the identification of research areas that may elucidate the biopsychosocial mechanisms potentially linking racism to HT. We hope to encourage investigators to invest in research on the health effects of racism because a sound and detailed knowledge base in this area is necessary to address racial disparities in health.
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