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Young Black Heart Transplant Recipients Are Disproportionately At-Risk

A new study in the American Heart Association journal found that young black adults are more than twice as likely to pass away within the first year after a heart transplant compared to non-black adults.

Specifically, black individuals between 18 and 30 years old have double the risk of passing away after a heart transplant. Black transplant recipients between 18 and 30 have a 1.5-times-higher risk of passing away.

Within the 18-to-30-year-old category, the risk of death was most pronounced during the first year after transplant with black recipients displaying a 2.3-times-higher risk of death than their non-black counterparts.

Building on Previous Research

This research further develops previous findings indicating that, overall, black transplant recipients have a higher risk of death. The new study identified a 30% increased risk of death across all age groups for black heart transplant recipients.

Young black heart transplant recipients are more likely than non-black recipients to have diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, and Medicaid instead of private insurance.

With a higher risk of heart disease diagnosis at younger ages, black patients may also receive heart transplants at younger ages than their non-black counterparts.

Questions We Need to Ask

-Do black patients have limited access to specialized support in the health care system?

-Do black patients tend to experience increased medical issues and illnesses prior to their heart transplant than non-black patients?

-Do black patients have a more difficult time securing insurance and other financial resources to sustain the gift of life?

Structural Racism as a Threat to Black Health

“The high risk is a marker of systemic racism and inequities that have resulted in significant health care disparities.”

Black patients have the highest rate of heart disease- and stroke-related mortality with a 30% increased risk of heart disease death and a 45% increased risk of stroke death.

The American Heart Association has issued a formal advisory regarding racism-related disparities in health care.

According to the advisory:

  • Structural racism restricts the health and wellness of black Americans
  • This structural racism may include differing access to goods and services (including health care) and restricted opportunities
  • These factors are less researched and understood than other social and economic factors that may influence black health and wellness

Structural racism-related health factors can overwhelm the advantages that some black patients appear to have on paper—for example, black patients with a high socioeconomic status are still subject to disparities in heart disease risk and death. Education level also fails to make up for these discrepancies.

“Higher socioeconomic status does not protect Black people from the impact of structural racism and its health effects.”

COVID-19 Concerns

Black patients have an increased chance of living with underlying medical conditions that increase their risk of severe reactions and death with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Transplant recipients are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 health threats.

Finding Financial Assistance

If you are struggling with the financial weight of a transplant or a different critical health concern, please consider whether fundraising with our nonprofit could help you. Community-based fundraising is a way to garner not just financial assistance but also emotional and social support.

If fundraising is not the right option for you at this time, take a look at our free and comprehensive Resource Directories for transplant, illness, or injury.

Written by Emily Progin