African Americans and Hypertension
Being of African-American descent is a risk factor for hypertension, and the condition is more common in this ethnic group than in whites. Statistics on African Americans and hypertension indicate that it begins at an earlier age and is usually more severe than in other groups. However, lifestyle changes and medication can help control high blood pressure.
Hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) is common in the United States. Nearly 1 in 3 American adults (about 65 million people) have hypertension. Unfortunately, hypertension in African Americans is quite common. In fact, the condition is more common in African Americans than in whites. It also begins at an earlier age and is usually more severe.
African Americans have a higher death rate from stroke and kidney disease as a result of hypertension. Statistics show that approximately 37 percent of African-American women have high blood pressure.
The good news is that treatment can control high blood pressure in African Americans. Treatment begins with lifestyle changes. For a lot of people, this is the only hypertension treatment that is needed to lower blood pressure. These changes include:
- Eating foods with less salt and sodium
- Increasing physical activity (walking 30 minutes per day can help)
- Drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation
- Losing weight if overweight (losing just 10 pounds can help)
- Following a healthy eating plan that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods (see DASH Diet).
Studies show that African Americans commonly have a relatively low intake of potassium and a high occurrence of elevated blood pressure and salt sensitivity. African Americans with hypertension may benefit from an increased dietary intake of potassium.
(Click Potassium and High Blood Pressure to learn more about the effect of potassium on hypertension.)
If lifestyle changes do not lower blood pressure to a normal level, hypertension medications may be prescribed.
When African Americans receive treatment for hypertension, the risk for congestive heart failure, heart attacks, stroke, and kidney disease is dramatically reduced.