Posted May 6, 2008 – It’s caused the silent killer. It can attack without you knowing you have it. And it affects nearly one in three African Americans. What disease is that prevalent and deadly: high blood pressure, which affects African Americans at a level some would consider an epidemic.
“Blacks in America have the greatest percentage of hypertension of any and people anywhere in the world,” says Dr. Emil Matarese, MD, a University of Pennsylvania professor and ambassador for the “Power To End Stroke” campaign of the American Stroke Association. “By getting regular check ups and following your doctor’s advice, you can reduce your risk of heath attack and stroke as well as Alzheimer’s disease.”
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When your blood pressure is high, your heart has to work harder than it should to pump blood to all parts of the body, says the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. High blood pressure is called the "silent killer" because most people feel healthy and don¹t even know that they have it.
But, if it's not treated, high blood pressure can cause stroke, heart attack, kidney and eye problems and even death. In fact, by some estimates, 75 percent of all strokes and heart attacks are caused by high blood pressure. Here’s what the Your Total Health at iVillage says:
Detecting the Problem
While many people who have high blood pressure don’t know it, detecting the problem is as simple as getting your blood pressure checked by a health professional on a regular basis, particularly if you are at risk or have relatives who have high blood pressure. (See the Blood Pressure Chart to see where you stand.) Even children can develop high blood pressure, particularly if they are severely overweight.
A blood pressure check is a painless procedure in which the healthcare professional wraps a blood pressure cuff around the patient’s arm, tightens it and then slowly releases it while noting the patient’s blood pressure.
“Everyone should see a physician once a year to get a good exam, have your blood pressure checked and blood checked for cholesterol and diabetes,” Dr. Matarese says. "That's what we can do to protect ourselves."
Treatment And Lifestyle Changes
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Treatment And Lifestyle Changes
Drugs called diuretics are among the most effective treatments available for controlling blood pressure, especially among Black Americans, and they happen to be relatively inexpensive, too. For Black Americans whose blood pressure does not respond to diuretics alone, studies have shown the benefits of combining diuretics with other blood pressure medications, such as ACE inhibitors or beta blockers.
Neither ACE inhibitors nor beta blockers seem to be as effective for Black Americans when taken alone, however. ACE inhibitors are most effective for Blacks suffering from kidney failure or heart failure in addition to high blood pressure.
Other medications that may be prescribed include calcium channel blockers (which are more expensive but are effective if diuretics cannot be tolerated) and cholesterol-reducing drugs.
Health experts advice high blood pressure patients should not be fooled if the drugs make them feel like nothing’s wrong. Take all the prescribed medicine anyway, they say, to keep things under control.
The ideal blood pressure for African Americans is uncertain. However, based on the results of the African American Study of Kidney Disease and Hypertension (AASK) study, the Hypertension in African Americans Working Group of the International Society on Hypertension in Blacks suggest the following:
But, beyond medication, there are a number of other things doctors urge Blacks with high blood pressure to do, including reducing the amount of salt and fat in the diet. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) found that the DASH diet, which includes a balance of fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins, was particularly helpful in controlling the blood pressure of Black Americans.
Here are other suggestions to keep your blood pressure in check:
You can order a free brochure on high blood pressure and African Americans from the American Heart Association