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The findings, based on data for nearly 475,000 VA patients, found that African Americans had lower rates of prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering statins, as well as ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers used to treat high blood pressure and certain heart problems. They were, however, more likely than white patients to be on aspirin.

At the same time, black patients were less likely than whites to have undergone coronary bypass surgery. The procedure is performed to reroute blood flow around heart-artery blockages, with the goal of relieving serious chest pain known as angina, and reducing the risk of heart attack.

Researchers say these racial gaps in drug prescriptions and bypass may help explain why heart disease deaths are not declining as rapidly among African Americans compared with other racial groups in the U.S.

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“It’s likely this may be a result of the lesser use of these strategies,” lead researcher Dr. Jawahar L. Mehta, of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, said in an interview.

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