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TC Grad Wins Award for Study on Connections Between Race and Hypertension

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TC Grad Wins Award for Study on Connections Between Race and Hypertension

Adrienne Stevens Zion

Adrienne Stevens Zion, Ed.D., was awarded the prestigious Caroline tum Suden/Francis Hellebrandt Professional Opportunity Award by the American Physiological Society (APS Women in Physiology/ Neural Control and Autonomic Regulation Section) for her work on race, arterial compliance, and autonomic modulation.

Zion, who graduated from TC in May, studied this for her dissertation topic. Her advisor and co-investigator was Ronald De Meersman, Professor of Biobehavioral Sciences.

The award was presented in April at the 2002 Experimental Biology Conference, attended by more than 12,000 scientific investigators.

The purpose of Zion's study was to investigate whether differences exist in young, healthy African-American males who have no evidence or family history of hypertension compared to a similar group of non-African Americans. Black males have disproportionate detrimental consequences of hypertension compared to any other group in the United States, the results of which lead to staggering financial costs related to medical and disability expenses.

Thirty-two African-American volunteers were compared to a similar group of 29 non-African-American males from staff and students at Columbia and Howard Universities. Electrocardiograms, beat-by-beat blood pressures and respiratory recordings were monitored. All analyses of arterial compliance and autonomic nervous system activity were calculated from the heart rate and blood pressure waveforms.

Despite similarities in anthropometrics, heart rates, blood pressures, and fitness, the African-American group displayed significantly lower arterial compliance than the non-African-American group. Essentially, the African- American group had less compliant vessels, a decreased ability to sense blood pressure changes, and were less able to lower their heart rates.

This investigation increases our understanding of possible predictors of hypertension. The establishment of clinical disease may occur much earlier than believed. Based on public health statistics, it is conceivable that these subjects may develop hypertension at a future point in their lives.

When markers of disease risk are verified in young asymptomatic African Americans, said Zion, they should change their lifestyles early in life to minimize the onset and progression of cardiovascular disease.

Zion's study is especially relevant since the American Physiological Society, an organization for physiological scientists that specializes in understanding the processes and functions underlying human health and disease, has embarked on an aggressive campaign to build public awareness of physiology and the benefits it provides to human health.

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