Black Americans are more likely to die of vascular disease than other ethnic groups, and have more severe vascular disease by the time they actually see a surgeon. That’s according to a new study, published in the February issue of “Journal of Vascular Surgery.”

Often described as “poor circulation,” vascular disease can cause a number of serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. For the study, researchers looked at 76,372 patients with a form of vascular disease, 9 percent of whom were black.

The study not only found that black patients are more likely to die from vascular illness, but to get damaging vascular disease at an earlier age than other populations. In addition, compared with all ethnic groups, black patients were more likely to have insulin-dependent diabetes, hypertension, congestive heart failure and end-stage renal disease; less often medicated with statins after surgery; less often insured and more likely to be cigarette smoker.

Also problematic was that black patients did not see a vascular surgeon until their disease was much farther advanced. Most patients who are referred to a vascular surgeon can have their disease managed without surgery, especially if they start going to the vascular surgeon in time.

However, the study found that by the time the African American patients saw a surgeon, they had more severe carotid disease (in the neck artery that brings oxygen to the brain), more severe abdominal aortic artery disease (which, if it ruptures, has a high risk of death) and much worse peripheral artery disease, with 73 percent suffering from the most extreme form, known as critical limb ischemia. PAD and CLI can lead to amputation.

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