High blood pressure is an important risk factor for heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems. All races are represented among the estimated 50 million Americans who have high blood pressure — defined as a systolic pressure of 140 or higher or a diastolic pressure of 90 or higher. But some races — African-Americans in particular — suffer disproportionately from high blood pressure.
The rate of high blood pressure for African-Americans in the U.S. ranks among the highest in the world, according to the American Heart Association. More than 36% of African-American men have high blood pressure, compared to 25.2% for white men and 24.2% for Hispanic men. The comparative rates for women are similar.
The result of this difference, according to the Heart Association, is that African-Americans are much more likely than whites and Hispanics to have a stroke or serious kidney disease, and to die from heart disease.
At the other end of the scale are Asian/Pacific Islanders, for whom the rates of high blood pressure are 9.7% for men and 8.4% for women.
Hispanic women are more likely and Hispanic men are less likely than whites to have high blood pressure. Hispanics also are less likely than whites and African-Americans to be aware of their high blood pressure, to have it treated or to have it controlled.
African-Americans experience a correspondingly high rate of cardiovascular disease: 41% of men and 40% of women suffer from these illnesses. Among whites, 30% of men and 24% of women have cardiovascular disease, while for Hispanics the figures are 29% for men and 27% for women.
High blood pressure can be a contributing factor in death rates from cardiovascular disease. Among the major racial groups in the U.S., white people have the highest death rates from cardiovascular disease. It accounts for the deaths of 42.5% of white women and 38.6% of white men. But African-Americans aren't far behind. Some 40.8% of African-American women and 33.8% of African-American men die of cardiovascular disease.
The cause of most cases of high blood pressure is not known, but doctors note that the disease is easily detected and usually controllable. Knowing these different risk factors and possible steps you can take to reduce the risk may help you take steps to protect yourself and your family.
Research has shown that through diet, weight loss, exercise and lifestyle changes, the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease may be reduced. Doctors and other health professionals believe that following some simple guidelines may help improve your health:
· Eat foods low in saturated fat and keep your overall fat intake to a minimum.
· Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and high-fiber foods.
· Limit your sodium intake, both in the products you buy and the salt you add in cooking and at the table. Try to stay below 2,400 mgs per day (about a teaspoon).
· Limit alcohol intake to no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks per day for men (or an ounce of alcohol overall).
· Make sure your diet includes foods high in potassium and eat plenty of low-fat or non-fat dairy products.
· Engage in physical activity at least 20-30 minutes a day 4-5 days a week.
· Refrain from smoking.
If you have questions about high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or possible treatments, you may want to consult your doctor or call 1-888-TENET-4U for a free, confidential physician referral.