Making choices that lower your risk

How African-Americans Can Avoid High Blood Pressure

Hypertension (or high blood pressure) is a heavy weight that the African-American community has been destined to cope with.

While no one is immune from high blood pressure, it is a proven fact that the African-American population has a 40 percent higher rate over any other ethnic group for contracting this deadly disease.

According to an article from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, high blood pressure comes earlier in black people than it does in white people and is usually more severe.

Jo Ann Crumity, an RN who has been in the Bostick Heart Center at Winter Haven Hospital for three years concurs, “Being African-American is one risk alone for developing high blood pressure.”

The sensitivity to salt seems to be more dominant in black people in the U.S., which increases the possibility of developing high blood pressure but this is not the only risk factor. Crumity observes that other risk factors are “being African-American, increased age, excessive weight, family history, having diabetes, being inactive, high dietary fat intake, low intake of potassium and smoking, as well as stress.”

Some experts believe that experiences or environmental causes (such as social and economic factors or discrimination) have a lot to do with high blood pressure in the African-American populace as opposed to the Caucasian populace.

“Seeing African-Americans with high blood pressure unfortunately is a common occurrence,” Crumity continues, “It is known that African-Americans produce higher levels of AD hormone (anti-diuretic hormone), which makes them more susceptible to high blood pressure.”

Normally with high blood pressure there are no symptoms, and for this reason is often called the “Silent Killer.”

In 90 to 95 percent of all known cases of high blood pressure there is no known cause. In the other five to ten percent it is due to kidney disorders or tumors in the adrenal glands, which narrow certain arteries.

Hypertension can create damage of blood vessels in different parts of your body. The longer it goes undetected and untreated it can cause major damage to your heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. This can lead to heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness, and heart failure.

Crumity advises, “Have regular check-ups at your physician office; and watch your risk factors. It would be good to watch for frequent or regular headaches; blurred vision; fatigue; tingling or numbness in the hands or feet; and swelling of the fingers or ankles. If you’re experiencing one or more of the above consult your doctor as soon as possible.”

While high blood pressure cannot be cured, it can be controlled with healthy lifestyle choices, and in some instances, medication. Race, age, and genetics are factors that are not controllable. However, obesity, stress, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and diabetes are factors that can be controlled.

Eating more fruits, vegetables, and dairy products with less saturated fat are a great start. Smoking is also hazardous for high blood pressure and should be avoided.

If a healthier diet combined with exercise are not enough, then your doctor may recommend medication to help keep hypertension under control. Taking your medication the way your doctor prescribes is key to bringing high blood pressure down.

A healthy blood pressure is 120/80mm. The systolic, or the top number, is the pressure when the heart beats. The diastolic, or the bottom number, is the pressure when the heart rests between beats.


story by DALE BLISS

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