Genes make a medical difference

Re “Oprah’s unhealthy mistake,” Opinion, May 17

Environmental issues are indeed prominent drivers of the disparate rates of hypertension among African Americans. However, Osagie K. Obasogie’s belief that “reducing health disparities to genes obscures more sensible conversations” is erroneous. The future of medicine includes the customization of treatments to suit the genetic uniqueness of the individual.

The heart operations I perform often vary according to patients’ genetic differences. The same should hold true for the care of the many Americans who suffer from hypertension. However, we routinely mistreat segments of the population because of our inability to identify genetic clues to effective solutions. Many experienced clinicians treat blacks and whites with hypertension differently because they appreciate this difference, especially in salt sensitivity. And the Food and Drug Administration has even approved an antihypertension drug specifically for blacks.

I appreciate the controversy surrounding the “slave trade” hypothesis for hypertension, but it should not cloud the fundamental reality that genes matter.



New York