Blood Pressure Risks for African Americans
Small increases in Blood pressure: Big risk to Black Patients
In 2014, the U.S. National Institutes of Health Eighth Joint National Committee changed blood pressure goals for patients over 60 without diabetes or kidney disease. Goals were raised from a target of less than 140 mm Hg to a target of less than 150 mm Hg. While these recommendations were made based on clinical trials, they did not include many African Americans.
Dr. Tiffany Randolph, a cardiologist in Greensboro N.C, was concerned these new blood pressure guidelines would be detrimental to the African American community. Evidence from a new study suggests that even small increases can be dangerous. A small rise of 10 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure showed an increased risk of dying by 12 percent. For those under 60, the risk is even greater. Each rise of 10 mm Hg would increase the risk of early death by 26 percent. In light of this, Dr. Randolph proposed this data should be taken into careful consideration when selecting a target goal for African American patients.
Presently, the new guidelines have drawn criticism for setting such high target goals for adults 60 and over. Many professional organizations, including the American Heart Association, have refused to endorse the new guidelines, which loosened target goals instead of tightening them.
Consequently, Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a spokesman for the American Heart Association, recommended this for optimal health: a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 mm Hg, and diastolic less than 80 mm Hg. A recent study composed of 30 percent black patients showed that aiming for this target goal successfully reduced causes of death by 27 percent.
Based on these findings, treatment goals should be emphasized. Lowering the target goal is essential to combating heart disease and lessening cardiovascular risks. High blood pressure can be managed with a healthy lifestyle, which includes practices such as a healthy diet, physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight. For some, this may also mean taking blood pressure-lowering medication as necessary.