This article is from
Creation 29(4):5, September 2007

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Blood pressure and ‘race’

Hypertension research confirms we’re all ‘one blood’

by Dion Astwood

Composition of images from stock.xchng Race

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is on the increase.1 This should concern not just medical doctors like me, but everyone, as it is an important preventable risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Medical studies clearly show that lowering a person’s blood pressure reduces the risk of both of these.

Doctors can prescribe several types of medication2 which lower blood pressure.3 These various classes of drugs work differently, e.g. they use different mechanisms and act on different proteins, enzymes or cell receptors. It has long been thought that black people and white people respond differently to these different classes of drugs. Hence, doctors were advised to consider a patient’s ‘race’ when choosing which medication to prescribe.

But research, recently highlighted in the medical journal Hypertension, now refutes this.4 Researchers found that the variation between so-called ‘races’ is much less than the variability within each of these groups. In fact, the differences within any ‘race’ are from around eight to 200 times greater than the average difference between Africans and Caucasians.5 And between 78 and 95% of all people have the same response to the different classes of anti-hypertensive treatments, irrespective of which ethnic group they belong to.6

So the new recommendation is that ‘race’ should not be a factor in deciding which medication to prescribe—rather other factors are more important.7,8

This finding is yet another confirmation of the amazing genetic closeness of all humanity, increasingly evident to biologists in recent years.9 To Christians, this ought to be no surprise, as the Bible declares that ‘He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth’ (Acts 17:26). Thus we are all descendants of the first man, Adam, created on Day 6 of Creation Week around 6,000 years ago.

But on hearing evolutionary biologists admit that, biologically, ‘we’re all the same’,10 many people react with astonishment. And why wouldn’t they? After all, there’s been nearly a century and a half of evolutionary (‘millions of years’) brainwashing of our culture since Darwin popularized the idea that different people groups evolved independently over long periods of time. Little wonder so many are surprised to hear that there isn’t a vast genetic gulf between the ‘races’.11

Surely this is an opportune time for Christians to boldly confront the evolutionary assumptions that inflame racism, by showing that the Bible, starting from the very first verse in Genesis, can be trusted. We can proclaim God’s tremendous message of hope, that there are no such things as ‘races’. Instead, we’re all one blood, and, though estranged from God, are able, when we put our faith in Him, to have our sins removed because Jesus Christ—the ‘last Adam’—shed His blood.

Posted on homepage: 29 September 2008

References and notes

  1. Hypertension cases to increase 60pc in 20 years, <www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200501/s1281978.htm>, 14 January 2005. Return to text.
  2. Major classes would include: thiazide diuretics, beta adrenergic blockers, alpha adrenergic blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and, more recently, angiotensin receptor blockers. Return to text.
  3. Aside from medication, research has also shown that exercise, weight loss, and eating more fruit and vegetables can reduce hypertension. Ref. 1. Return to text.
  4. Sehgal, A.R., Overlap Between Whites and Blacks in Response to Antihypertensive Drugs, Hypertension 43:566–572, 2004. Return to text.
  5. Technical note: This was calculated taking the range for two standard deviations within a group and comparing it to the difference between the groups. Return to text.
  6. Ref. 4, p. 570. Return to text.
  7. Such as cost, side-effects, co-existing disease. Return to text.
  8. Another study has borne this out. Contrary to popular misconception, researchers found that Americans of African descent were not more predisposed to hypertension compared to people of European descent. The researchers concluded that ‘the impact of environmental factors among both populations may have been “under-appreciated”.’ Cooper, R.S., et al., An international comparative study of blood pressure in populations of European vs. African descent, BMC Medicine 3:2, 2005, <www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/3/2/abstract>. Return to text.
  9. Hesman, T., DNA evidence shows race doesn’t exist, <www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/5846064.htm>, 9 February 2005. Return to text.
  10. Why we must lose the race, The West Australian, 31 July 2004, Weekend Extra, p. 5. Return to text.
  11. See e.g., Wieland, C., Blood brothers, Creation 24(3):54–55, 2002, <creation.com/blood_brother>. Return to text.