Peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) is a rare type of heart failure that occurs in women during the last month of pregnancy or up to five months after delivery. Now, findings published in JAMA Cardiology suggest that Black women are two times more likely than women of other races to develop PPCM, reports Medscape.

For the study, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania assessed the medical records of 220 women (121 African-American and 99 non­–African American) diagnosed with PPCM. Scientists noted clinical characteristics, presentation and outcomes of the disease in these patients.

Results showed that African-American women were diagnosed with PPCM at a younger age compared with their white, Latina and Asian counterparts (27.6 years versus 31.7 years). In addition, Black women also took twice as long to recuperate from the illness, and their average recovery time was 265 days opposed to 126 days for non–African American women.

African-American women were also diagnosed with PPCM much later in the postpartum period: 22 percent in the first week, 29 percent in the following three weeks and 32 percent in the following four months. (Doctors detected PPCM in 50 percent of non–African American women within the first week after their babies’ birth.) The condition of these Black women was also more likely to deteriorate after their first diagnosis and they were twice as likely to fail to recover.

“Further work is needed to understand to what extent these differences stem from genetic or socioeconomic differences and how treatment of African-American patients might be tailored to improve health outcomes,” researchers said.

But until scientists find answers as to why these racial differences exist, they advise that doctors counsel African-American women with PPCM differently than their counterparts from other races. One physician who commented on the study said, based on the findings, Black women should be viewed as “high-risk patients” who require careful evaluation and treatment, especially during the first few months after delivery.

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