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Black Americans: Keep an eye on your blood pressure

Aug. 6, 2018—A new study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association found that 75 percent of black adults in the United States develop high blood pressure by age 55. That's compared to 55 percent of white men and 40 percent of white women in the same age group.

Among both black and white study participants, higher body weight correlated with an increased risk of developing the condition. But those who followed a heart-healthy lifestyle reduced their risk of high blood pressure.

High blood pressure doesn't cause symptoms itself, but it can lead to more serious conditions later in life. Those include heart attack, stroke, sexual dysfunction, kidney disease and loss of vision. If left untreated, it can also lead to heart disease, the No. 1 killer worldwide.

What you can do

Diet plays a major role in blood pressure and heart health. Both black and white participants who followed a DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan successfully lowered their risk of high blood pressure. The DASH diet includes lots of fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy. It encourages reducing salt intake and eating fish and poultry instead of red meats.

There are other tried and tested ways of maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle. These include:

  • Having your blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Not drinking alcohol.
  • Getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Managing your stress levels.
  • Not smoking.
  • Seeing your doctor regularly and treating problems early when possible.

Another piece of the puzzle

Earlier studies have shown that racial discrimination affects health. In 2016, one found that the stress of racial discrimination may affect specific genes that interact with high blood pressure. This in turn may cause racial disparities in high blood pressure and some other diseases.

Sources: American Heart Association; EurekAlert! Science News; Journal of the American Heart Association; University of Florida
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