High Blood Pressure Affects Blacks Sooner

New study shows that Blacks with early signs of high blood pressure must be extra vigilant to prevent acceleration of hypertension. 

Posted: 09/13/2011 09:37 AM EDT

African-Americans diagnosed with elevated blood pressure and who don’t make any lifestyle changes after diagnosis develop high blood pressure one year sooner than whites with similar behavior, according to a new study.

Examining electronic health records from clinics for 18,865 people aged 18 to 85 between 2003 and 2009, researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina found that African-Americans who developed prehypertension had a 35% greater risk for progression to high blood pressure than whites.

The study, published in the medical journal Hypertension, adds more specific evidence to the long known phenomenon of Blacks developing high blood pressure at a greater rate than whites. Although the study did not uncover the reasons behind this disparity, it does show that early prevention and detection is key for African-Americans in avoiding high blood pressure.

High blood pressure can be a serious problem. It causes stress on the artery walls resulting in scarring and weakness. If left untreated, high blood pressure can cause heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms, blood clots and damage the circulatory system.

Making lifestyle changes can reduce a person’s risk of developing hypertension over their lifetime. The Mayo Clinic suggests: limiting salty foods, losing excess weight, maintaining regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables and potassium, limiting fat intake, limiting alcohol and tobacco consumption and finding ways to reduce stress.

(Photo: REUTERS/Jim Bourg)