One in 100 African Americans will experience heart failure at the peak of his or her life, according to a new study reported on by WebMD. Compared with white Americans, blacks are 20 times more likely to experience heart failure before age 50.  

For the ongoing study, Kristen Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, and researchers from the University of California in San Francisco followed 5,115 young people. Despite regular medical visits during the first 20 years of the study, 27 of the participants had heart failure at an average age of 39. All were African American except one.

Why the discrepancy? Doctors believe that African Americans have higher rates of increases in blood pressure and body-mass index (BMI) than their white counterparts. Those two health issues are known to play a role in heart disease and heart failure.

“We have come to accept that there are care differences between African-American and white populations,” said Eric D. Peterson, MD, MPH, director of cardiovascular research at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. What makes this finding unfortunate, Peterson said, is that we have effective treatments for high blood pressure.

Learn more about heart failure among minorities here.