What's Your High Blood Pressure Risk?

Published May 7, 2008

May 6, 2008 – Black Americans have more risk factors for high blood pressure (hypertension), than other racial groups. For example, Black women are more likely than White women to be extremely overweight or obese and/or diabetic, both of which are among the risk factors for hypertension.


"We belive there is a gentic risk further aggravated by diet and lifetstye," says Dr. Emil Matarese, MD, a University of Pennsylania professor and ambassador for the “Power To End Stroke” campaign of the American Stroke Association. 

Here are the others:

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Overweight or obese. The heavier people are, the greater their risk of disease. Obesity (more than 20 percent over one’s ideal weight or body mass index greater than 30) increases the risk of disease to high or even “extremely high” levels, but just being overweight is a serious risk factor, too. These statistics are particularly important for Black American women, who are significantly more likely to be overweight than White women, or Black or White men. Research shows that more than two-thirds of all Black American women are not getting enough exercise. 

Diabetes. Perhaps because obesity is linked to both type 2 diabetes and hypertension, diabetics are more likely to have hypertension than non-diabetics. Black Americans are also more likely to be diabetic than White Americans are. In fact, Black Americans are about 50 percent more likely to have diabetes than Whites.

High stress levels. Stress contributes to heart disease by elevating blood pressure, and studies have shown that people who are under stress are more likely to suffer from heart attacks, high blood pressure and other forms of disease. Recent studies show that Black Americans suffer stress merely because of their racial status in America, which doesn’t bode well with regard to keeping blood pressure in check.

Smoking. A major risk factor for hypertension – as well as lung cancer, breast cancer, heart disease and many other illnesses – is smoking. Although Blacks and Whites smoke at roughly equal rates, Black Americans tend to smoke particularly dangerous brands of cigarettes that are higher in nicotine and tar. Furthermore, researchers have found that some tobacco companies specifically target Black Americans with more ads.

Excessive alcohol use. Studies consistently have found a link between alcohol use and elevated blood pressure and irreversible heart failure (alcoholic cardiomyopathy).

Fat-laden diet. A diet high in saturated fat (fried foods, processed foods – like potato chips and foods cooked with or containing fatty animal oils) – contribute to obesity.

Salt sensitivity. After eating salt, people who are salt-sensitive tend to show elevations in blood pressure that can be quite dramatic. Salt sensitivity can be particularly dangerous in the United States, where the average person consumes at least nine grams of sodium per day, with many Americans eating more than 12 grams daily. (The body requires only about half a gram of sodium per day, and the American Heart Association recommends that people consume no more than 2.4 grams per day.) Research has shown that Black Americans tend to be more salt-sensitive than White Americans, and as many as 80 percent of Black Americans with high blood pressure may be salt-sensitive. 

Written by BET-Staff

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