Race disparities in pubertal timing: Implications for cardiovascular disease risk among African American women
Compared to white girls, sexual maturation is accelerated in African American girls as measured by indicators of pubertal development, including age at first menses. Increasing epidemiological evidence suggests that the timing of pubertal development may have strong implications for cardio-metabolic health in adolescence and adulthood. In fact, younger menarcheal age has been related prospectively to poorer cardiovascular risk factor profiles, a worsening of these profiles over time, and an increase in risk for cardiovascular events, including non-fatal incident cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular-specific and all-cause mortality. Yet, because this literature has been limited almost exclusively to white girls/women, whether this same association is present among African American girls/women has not been clarified. In the current narrative review, the well-established vulnerability of African American girls to experience earlier pubertal onset is discussed as are findings from literatures examining the health outcomes of earlier pubertal timing and its antecedents, including early life adversity exposures often experienced disproportionately in African American girls. Gaps in these literatures are highlighted especially with respect to the paucity of research among minority girls/women, and a conceptual framework is posited suggesting disparities in pubertal timing between African American and white girls may partially contribute to well-established disparities in adulthood risk for cardio-metabolic disease between African American and white women. Future research in these areas may point to novel areas for intervention in preventing or lessening the heightened cardio-metabolic risk among African American women, an important public health objective.