Where You Live May Be Giving You High Blood Pressure

Scientists find link between hypertension, location and race.

Posted: 04/14/2011 10:24 AM EDT
High Blood Pressure

You know you’re in trouble when just being Black is a risk factor listed for hypertension.

“Where you live, your race and your gender strongly influence your risk of developing high blood pressure as you move from young adulthood into middle age—and hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” said Deborah A. Levine, M.D., M.P.H., who led the study.

We know that high blood pressure can be controlled with a healthy low-sodium diet and exercise, but a new study reports that we may have even less control over whether we are affected by the disease. It is enough to make your blood boil.

Over a 20 year period, researchers studied young adults ages 18 to 30 years old who lived in Birmingham; Chicago; Minneapolis; and Oakland, grouped by race, age and sex. Of the 3,436 participants who didn’t have high blood pressure when the study began, 33.6 percent of Birmingham residents; 27.4 percent in Oakland; 23.4 percent in Chicago; and 19 percent in Minneapolis were diagnosed with hypertension when it was over. Overall, 37.6 percent of Black women and 34.5 percent of Black men now had hypertension.

After adjusting for multiple risk factors, living in Birmingham significantly increased the chance that a person would develop high blood pressure, according to the research.

“Independently of where they live, Blacks—especially Black women—are at markedly higher risk of hypertension even after we took into account factors that are known to affect blood pressure, such as physical activity and obesity,” Levine said.

Researchers say they need to do more studies to understand why geography and race play a key role in high blood pressure. They are also interested in the environmental and genetic factors that could be at play.

For more on hypertension and high blood pressure, including tips for lowering your risk, visit the American Heart Association.


(Photo:John Mccusker/Landov)