Race/Ethnic Variation in Vascular Aging Trajectories and Mortality Risk: Insight from the Health and Retirement Study

Kevin Heffernan (Ex Sci) PI, Janet Wilmoth (Sociology / ASI) co-I, and Andrew London (Maxwell / ASI) co-I
2020-2021 CUSE Grant – Innovative & Interdisciplinary Research, $21,000

Disparities in overall life expectancy in the U.S. prevail with non-Hispanic Black individuals living four to five years less than non-Hispanic White and Hispanic individuals. Racial differences in life expectancy may be driven by cardiovascular disease (CVD). Arterial stiffness is an independent predictor of and antecedent to CVD. It is our overarching hypothesis that racial variation in arterial stiffness plays a prominent role in racial/ethnic differences in CVD risk across the life course and, by extension, partially explains racial/ethnic differences in life expectancy. We will leverage the strong longitudinal study design of the Health and Retirement Study to explore race/ethnic variation in vascular aging (trajectories of change in arterial stiffness) across a crucial 12-year period spanning the transition from middle-age to older adulthood. Findings from this study may identify a new biomarker of mortality risk and a potential biological target to abrogate racial and ethnic disparities in life expectancy.