Impact of High Blood Pressure on African Americans

Hypertension is a diagnosis in which African-Americans are affected by more than any other race or ethnic class. It is noted that throughout the world African-Americans are at the highest risk for hypertension. Most times, African-Americans will develop high blood pressure younger than any other race. Hypertension has been known as a silent but deadly killer as there are no symptoms suggestive of hypertension. The only way to determine if one has high blood pressure is to have the blood pressure checked when visiting your provider.

Much of the history and relation to why African-Americans are at greatest risk for hypertension include the descent of Africans across the Atlantic. Theoretical perspectives have included that during the slave trade middle passage, Africans that we're able to hold more salt in their bodies lived. To this end, there is much debate on if these genes were passed on to African Americans. Further, as decisions were being made by slave traders, the face of any captured African was licked by the slave trader in order to determine salt content. If there was found to be a decreased salt content of the individual, slave trader beliefs were that during migration into the world, these Africans would potentially die. As a result of history, research has indicated that there may be a gene that makes African-Americans more susceptible to hypertension.

What is blood pressure?

It is the pressure of blood against the walls of arteries. This is created by the heart pumping blood into the arteries and through the circulatory system. The second part includes the force of blood on the arteries during the rest between heartbeats. This is how a blood pressure number is determined.

Normal blood pressure should be between 120/80. These numbers are representative of the following:

· The upper number is called the systolic number. This occurs when the pressure of the heartbeats. Congestive heart failure, kidney disease, erectile dysfunction, and loss of vision.

· The lower number, which is called the diastolic number, occurs when the heart is at rest.

The diagnosis of high blood pressure typically comes after several blood pressure readings have been taken. Treatment will start with lifestyle changes that can control blood pressure. These changes can result in improved blood pressure reading and reduce the risk for further health deterioration:

· Smoking cessation- quitting smoking will drastically reduce the likelihood of developing high blood pressure.

· Addressing issues with being overweight or obese. It is key to maintain a healthy weight.

· Decreasing salt intake. The more salt that African-Americans tend to use, the greater the risk for increasing the blood pressure.

· Decrease alcohol intake. Alcohol has been shown to increase blood pressure.

· Consider following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Change in the diet should focus on including more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.

If left uncontrolled, blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in different parts of the body. In addition, high blood pressure can lead to problems with the heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. This can result in heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, erectile dysfunction, and loss of vision. Taking these simple steps can save an individual, family, and community through role modeling positive change for gains in health.

Yvette Glenn is the owner of Tree of Live: Health and Life Coaching for Women. She can be reached at

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