High Blood Pressure

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High Blood Pressure

For African-Americans, high blood pressure often develops early in life

The prevalence of high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) in African-Americans in the United States is among the highest in the world. More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic African-American men and women have high blood pressure. For African-Americans, high blood pressure also develops earlier in life and is usually more severe.

Why so many African-Americans have high blood pressure

Theories include higher rates of obesity and diabetes among African-Americans. Researchers have also found that there may be a gene that makes African-Americans much more salt sensitive. In people who have this gene, as little as one extra gram (half a teaspoon) of salt could raise blood pressure as much as 5 mm Hg.

African Americans in the U.S. have a higher prevalence of high blood pressure (HBP) than other racial and ethnic groups. It is also often more severe in blacks, and some medications are less effective in treating HBP in blacks. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. That’s why it’s called the “silent killer.” The only way to know if your blood pressure is high is to have your healthcare provider check it regularly.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood against the walls of the arteries. Blood pressure results from two forces. One is created by the heart as it pumps blood into the arteries and through the circulatory system. The other is the force on the arteries as the heart rests between beats. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

What should my blood pressure be?

Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. The top number (systolic) is the pressure when the heart
beats. The bottom number (diastolic) is the pressure when the heart rests between beats.
If you’re an adult with a systolic blood pressure of 120 to 129 mm Hg, and your diastolic pressure is less than
80 mm Hg, you have elevated blood pressure. High blood pressure is a pressure of 130 systolic or higher, or 80 diastolic or higher, that stays high over time.

How often should I have my blood pressure checked?

Your doctor may take several readings over time before making a judgment about your blood pressure. For proper diagnosis of HBP, your healthcare provider will use an average based on two or more readings obtained on two or more occasions. Checking your blood pressure is quick and painless. You can have it done in a doctor’s office, hospital, clinic, nurse’s office, pharmacy, company clinic or health fair. You can also purchase a home blood pressure monitor so you can check it at home. Your doctor will tell you how often you should have it checked.

How can high blood pressure affect me?

Left uncontrolled or undetected, HBP can damage blood vessels in various parts of your body. And the longer it’s left untreated, the more likely organs such as your heart, brain, kidneys or eyes will be damaged. This can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, erectile dysfunction, and loss of vision.

What can I do about my blood pressure?

Making healthy lifestyle changes is the first step.
• Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.
• Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Eat a healthy diet that is low in saturated and trans
fats and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and
low-fat dairy products.
• Aim to consume less than 1,500 mg/day of sodium
(salt). Even reducing your daily intake by 1000 mg
can help.
• Eat foods rich in potassium. Aim for 3,500 – 5,000
mg of dietary potassium per day.
• Limit alcohol to no more than one drink a day if
you’re a woman or two drinks a day if you’re a man.
• Be more physically active. Aim for at least 90 to
150 minutes of aerobic and/or dynamic resistance
exercise per week and/or three sessions of isometric
resistance exercises per week.

What about medications?

Depending on your risk and blood pressure levels, you may be prescribed one or more medications in addition to lifestyle changes. In African Americans, thiazide-type diuretics (water pills) and/or calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are more effective in lowering blood pressure when given alone or as initial medicines in a multidrug regimen. (American Heart Association)

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