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Study links redlining to heart health problems in Black communities

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — There’s a link between historic redlining and heart health in Black communities, according to a newly released study.

Mental health experts say redlining has roots in racism, and the impact of systemic racism creates stressors. That stress can often trickle down generation to generation and show up as health problems.

It impacts various communities, but according to the study by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Black people feel it the most. Redlining –the practice of keeping Black people out of certain communities– reached its height in America in the 1930s.

George Middleton is a mental health therapist who specializes in addressing race ideology and racism from a mental health perspective.

“Redlining is a huge disparity and many people think it does not exist today,” Middleton said.

He says stress stemming from the historical impacts of racism often manifests itself today.

“It’s an oppressor-oppressed relationship, but it’s not on a conscious basis. But because people think a certain way about a black area versus a white area then they behave accordingly,” Middleton said.

The study surveyed nearly 5,000 people around the country they labeled as middle aged. The hope was to find out how structural racism leads to cardiovascular disease and risks in Black, Hispanic and Chinese communities versus white communities.

“There’s a direct correlation between skin tone and the amount of income and access to opportunity,” Middleton said.

The findings suggests Black people living in some redlined or declining communities fared the worst in areas of blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Heart health of Black people improved in other communities deemed the best or still desirable.

Pulling from theoretical evidence, the study says redlining impacts can become imbedded physiologically, harming metabolism and cardiovascular systems.

“If you want to address racial disparities you have to start first from your level of thinking,” Middleton said.

A similar study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition released some suggestions to counter the impacts of redlining. One of them is providing affordable housing outside of historically redlined zones.