Original Article

Cardiovascular Risk in Gullah African Americans with High Familial Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Project SuGAR

Authors: Kelly J. Hunt, PhD, Emily Kistner-Griffin, PhD, Ida Spruill, PhD, RN, Abeba A. Teklehaimanot, BS, W. Timothy Garvey, MD, Michèle Sale, PhD, Jyotika Fernandes, MD


Objectives: To determine the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, levels of cardiovascular risk factors, and extent of preventive care in Gullah African Americans with a high familial risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Methods: Between 1995 and 2003, 1321 Gullah African Americans with a high prevalence of diabetes mellitus from the South Carolina Sea Islands consented to and enrolled in the Sea Islands Genetic African American Registry (Project SuGAR). A cross-sectional analysis of cardiometabolic risk, preventive care, and self-reported cardiovascular disease was conducted.

Results: Cardiometabolic risk factor levels were high and vascular disease was prevalent. Among the subjects with diabetes mellitus, the mean disease duration was 10.5 years; approximately one-third reported reduced vision or blindness; and >80% reported numbness, pain, or burning in their feet. Preventive diabetes care was limited, with <60%, <25%, and <40% seeing an ophthalmologist, podiatrist, and dentist, respectively, within the past year. Only 54.4% of women and 39.3% of men reported daily glucose monitoring.

Conclusions: As the largest existing study of Gullah individuals, our study offers insight into not only the level of cardiovascular risk in this population but also the pathophysiological mechanisms central to ancestral differences in cardiometabolic risk in the broader African American population.

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