African-Americans get higher blood pressure sooner
September 12th, 2011
05:55 PM ET

African-Americans get higher blood pressure sooner

African-Americans who have slightly elevated blood pressure and don't do anything to change their lifestyle are  more likely to have high blood pressure one year earlier than whites with prehypertension, according to a study published Monday.

Blood pressure numbers between 120-139 systolic (upper number) or 80-89 diastolic (lower number) are considered prehypertension.  High blood pressure is defined as 140/90 mm Hg and greater.

Previous studies have shown that blacks have higher rates of high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), heart disease and stroke compared to whites.  This new study says African-Americans with prehypertension are more likely to progress to having high blood pressure compared to whites in the same situation, suggesting the need for earlier interventions among black patients to potentially eliminate the disparities between races for hypertension.

High blood pressure causes stress on the artery walls resulting in scarring and weakness in the arteries.  Uncontrolled, it can produce heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms, blood clots, and impair the normal function of the circulatory system.

Scientists from the Medical University of South Carolina examined electronic health records from clinics in the southeastern U.S. for 18,865 people aged 18 to 85 years between 2003 and 2009. None of the participants had high blood pressure at the study onset. 30.4% of the participants were African-American and 69.6% were white.

The researchers examined each participant’s risk factors for hypertension, including age, sex, weight, initial blood pressure, and whether subjects had type 2 diabetes or kidney disease. 63.8% of patients progressed to hypertension. And those patients were more likely to be obese (43%) diabetic (27.4%) and older than the others. African-American participants who developed prehypertension had a 35% greater risk for progression to high blood pressure than white participants.

While the study, published in the journal Hypertension, does not explain why blacks have higher rates of movement from prehypertension to hypertension, a related editorial by Edward D. Frohlich of the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans, Louisiana, suggests that one explanation for the difference “may be based on the greater dietary intake of salt during one’s lifetime, especially in black individuals who are genetically predisposed to these severe target organ complications of hypertension.”

It’s important to note that changing lifestyle factors can play an important role in fighting and preventing hypertension. Limiting salt intake, losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight, having regular physical activity, managing cholesterol levels, eating a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, and limiting fat intake can all help to keep blood pressure rates in the healthy zone.

soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Marla Heller, MS, RD

    And the DASH diet has been shown to be especially beneficial for African Americans to help lower blood pressure. Following the DASH principles would be a great way to prevent or reverse hypertension. One recent study showed that the DASH diet helped AA to lower blood pressure overnight (something that is typical for Caucasians). This can be one of the ways DASH helps.

    Marla Heller, MS, RD

    Author of the user-friendly guide to the DASH diet.

    September 12, 2011 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. WellnessDrive

    CoQ10 can help reduce high blood pressure. Coenzyme Q10 can be found in spinach, broccoli, nuts, soy, organ and muscle meats, and fish. As we age, the ability to synthesize coenzyme Q10 begins to decline.

    As the last paragraph of this article mentions, we must manage our diet carefully. But to help combat it, you may want to give your body a little boost from CoQ10 supplements. Go on a WellnessDrive.com

    Our family tries to eat healthy all the time, but sometimes we don't or we'll give into some treats. We don't worry about it since we give ourselves some extra protection to avoid these issues and maintain or even optimize our health. 🙂 Nice!

    September 13, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Benita

    I really wish the scientific community would stop making these claims that African Americans are predisposed to ailments such as obesity,high blood pressure,diabetes etc. The truth is: While it may seem hereditary, in most cases the only thing inherited was a bad life style.African Americans have a traditional diet and lifestyle that slightly differs from many other races.As an African American myself, I'm worried that all these study's are going to be used against us for insurance reasons. We as African Americans need to educate ourselves and children on proper nutrition, and eat our soul food in moderation.

    September 13, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bes

      I concur and we need to exercise on a regular basis!!!

      September 13, 2011 at 22:20 | Report abuse |
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    September 14, 2011 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
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