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Hypertension & Minority Health



Hypertension occurs when the blood pressure, or force of blood pushing against the blood vessel walls, gets too high and stays that way. It occurs most often in African-Americans. There are two numbers in a blood pressure reading: The top number, or systolic blood pressure, occurs when the heart pumps or contracts. The bottom number, or diastolic blood pressure, occurs when the heart is resting or relaxing. Most health professionals agree that the upper range of normal blood pressure should be 130/80 or less.

It is estimated that more than 50 million Americans have hypertension. Hypertension occurs most often in African-Americans. Nearly 4 out of every 10 (38%) of African-American adults have hypertension, as compared to nearly 3 out of 10 (29%) of white Americans. Generally speaking, the lower the numbers are, the better.

Key Risk Factors for Hypertension:

family history of hypertension
high salt or sodium intake
high fat intake
overweight
smoking
excessive alcohol intake
inactive lifestyle (inadequate exercise)
chronic or continuous stress
being African-American

Some women who use oral contraceptives may have an increased risk of developing hypertension

Key Lifestyle Approaches for Hypertension Control:

weight control
active, regular exercise
limiting salt intake to no more than 2.4 grams a day
limiting alcohol intake to no more than 1 ounce a day
taking the minimum daily requirement of potassium, calcium and magnesium
avoiding excessive emotional stress

Hypertension is called The Silent Killer because it has no reliable symptoms. You can look and feel great and still have hypertension. You can also be young and have the disease. It can affect anyone at any age (even children.) In general, hypertension is a greater cause of disease and death in industrialized countries (More about health differences among nations when our web site expands to focus on International Health.)

Health Power emphasizes that hypertension is a major and very easily identified risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. It is, therefore, very important to do everything possible to prevent it. However, if you get hypertension, please commit yourself to controlling it, not just for yourself, but also for those who love you.

If you're interested in hypertension as it relates to race, culture, and ethnicity, we suggest that you contact the International Society on Hypertension in Blacks, Tel. (404) 876-6263. Their web site can be reached through our Relevant Resources section.
 
Pre-hypertension - When a person's top number is between 130 and 139, or the bottom number is between 80 and 89, he or she has a condition called Pre-Hypertension. At that time, the person should see his or her doctor, increase their physical activity, decrease their sodium (or salt) intake. However, there is increasing agreement that the systolic pressure or top number should be no higher than between 130 and 139, and the diastolic pressure or lower number should, ideally, be no higher than
between 85 and 89. Generally speaking, the lower the numbers are, the
better.
 
 

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