Impact of Racial Discrimination and Hostility on Adrenergic Receptor Responsiveness in African American Adults

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ObjectiveRacial discrimination is increasingly recognized as a contributor to increased cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk among African Americans. Previous research has shown significant overlap between racial discrimination and hostility, an established predictor of CVD risk including alterations in adrenergic receptor functioning. The present study examined the associations of racial discrimination and hostility with adrenergic receptor responsiveness.MethodsIn a sample (N = 57) of young to middle-aged African American adults (51% female) with normal and mildly elevated blood pressure, a standardized isoproterenol sensitivity test (CD25) was used to evaluate β-AR responsiveness, whereas the dose of phenylephrine required to increase mean arterial pressure by 25 mm Hg (PD25) was used to assess α1-AR responsiveness. Racial discrimination was measured using the Perceived Racism Scale and hostility was assessed using the Cook-Medley Hostility Scale.ResultsIn hierarchical regression models, greater racial discrimination, but not hostility, emerged as a significant predictor of decreased β-adrenergic receptor responsiveness (β = .38, p = .004). However, moderation analysis revealed that the association between racial discrimination and blunted β-adrenergic receptor responsiveness was strongest among those with higher hostility (β = .49, 95% confidence interval = .17–.82, p = .004). In addition, hostility, but not racial discrimination, significantly predicted α1-AR responsiveness.ConclusionsThese findings suggest racial discrimination was associated with blunted β-adrenergic receptor responsiveness, providing further evidence of the potential contribution of racial discrimination to increased CVD risk among African Americans. The adverse effects of discrimination on cardiovascular health may be enhanced in individuals with higher levels of hostility.

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