High Blood Pressure and the damaging effects on Black Americans are increasing, and that’s a cause for concern.
Currently, more than 40% of this population is affected.
In addition, high blood pressure, known as hypertension, develops earlier in life for Black Americans than in Caucasians and is more severe.
Hypertension increases the risk of heart disease and stroke and can cause permanent damage to the heart before you even notice any symptoms.
It is often called the “silent killer” because the only way to know if it’s high is to have it checked regularly, and this is difficult for some to do.
- One happens while the heart pumps blood into the arteries and through the circulatory system.
- The other is the force of the arteries as they resist the blood flow.
Normal blood pressure is below 120/80.
- 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 blood pressure of 120 to 139/80 to 89, you have pre-hypertension. If your blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or higher, you have high blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure and diabetes or kidney disease, your doctor will want your blood pressure to be at least lower than 130/80 mm Hg.
While a specific cause of hypertension is not known, about 5-10% of cases include kidney disease, tumors of the adrenal glands near the kidneys and narrowing of certain arteries.
Hypertension can damage blood vessels throughout parts of your body.
- 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, and blindness.
Risk Factors you cannot control:
- Race: Blacks develop high blood pressure earlier in life and their average blood pressures are higher than the blood pressures of whites.
- Age: In general, the older you get, the greater your chance of developing high blood pressure.
- Sex: Men tend to develop hypertension earlier in life than women.
- Heredity: A tendency to have high blood pressure runs in families.
- 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.
But you can control some risk factors:
- Obesity: Black Americans are affected far more by obesity than other races.
- Among non-Hispanic blacks age 20 and older, 63 percent of men and 77 percent of women are overweight or obese.
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Lack of physical activity
Diabetes is treatable and preventable, but many people don’t recognize early warning signs. Or, they avoid seeking treatment out of fear of complications, such as blindness, amputations or kidney failure.
- For diabetes and other heart disease risks, regular exercise also plays a key role – both in strengthening the cardiovascular system and burning extra calories.
- Aim for at least 30 minutes of walking a day. That’s enough to get the heart rate up,” There’s no need to do a marathon.
If you’re carrying extra weight, focus on the quality of your diet throughout the day, not just during mealtime.
You can add hundreds of calories to your diet just on snacking. Choosing wise snacks can be part of a healthy diet.
- Apples and pears
- Carrot and celery sticks
- Bell pepper slices
- Zucchini or cucumber circles (Sounds fancy, huh?)
- Roasted chickpeas
- Broccoli and cauliflower florets
- Popcorn (It’s a whole grain! Who knew?)
- Rice cakes and whole-grain crackers
- Nuts and seeds (Hit those good fats!)
Ditch your favorite high-sugar drinks and try:
- Plain or sparkling water, add fruit to it if it’s too plain for you
- Fat-free milk or plain soy milk
- Unsweetened tea or coffee
- 100% fruit juice (Stick to a small glass)
- Low-sodium tomato or mixed vegetable juice
Snacks that satisfy and will fill you up:
- Whole-grain toast with peanut or almond butter
- Cherry tomatoes with hummus
- Low-fat or fat-free cheese
- Plain low-fat or fat-free yogurt (A great pairing with fruit)
- Fruit and/or vegetable smoothies
- Whole-grain crackers with canned tuna or salmon
- Canned fruit (in natural juice or light syrup)
- A thin slice of angel food cake or homemade banana-nut bread
- Baked apple
- Raisins, dates, figs and other unsweetened dried fruits
- Frozen banana
- Frozen grapes
- Fresh fruit salad (Use your imagination and get creative when choosing fruits)
For meal times or eating out:
- Limit red meat in favor of lean meats such as chicken or fish, and watching portion sizes on foods with high carbohydrates, such as pasta and rice.
- Make vegetables the main part of the meal and fill up with those rather than other foods.
- Eat healthy foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and salt.
- Eat a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
Make sure to check out the nutrition label when you shop and choose wisely
- Watch for added sugars and salt, and try making healthier versions of packaged snacks at home so you can choose the ingredients.
What you can also DO about it is:
➡ Increase your daily physical activity.
➡ Limit alcohol to no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman, two drinks a day if you’re a man.
➡ If you smoke, stop.
➡ Take your medicine how and when your doctor tells you to
1. Talk to your doctor, diabetic educator, nurse or other health-care professionals.
2. If you have heart disease or have had a stroke, members of your family may also be at higher risk. It’s very important for them to make changes now to lower their risk.
3. Call The American Heart Association for more information at 1-800-AHA-USA1 (1-800-242-8721) or visit americanheart.org to learn more about heart disease.
4. For information on strokes, call 1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653) or visit StrokeAssociation.org.
Knowledge is power. Learn To Live Longer