Why Do African Americans Still Have Higher Rates Of High Blood Pressure?

Nurse checking patient's blood pressureThe question of why African-Americans have disproportionate rates of high blood pressure continues to puzzle the medical community and requires further research, according to a new report.

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The report, which was posted this week and will be published in the November issue of the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, zeroed in on several areas where research is needed to help narrow the divide between African-Americans and others when it comes to high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in the area of hypertension in African-Americans in recent decades, but it’s still a huge problem,” said the report’s lead author Paul Whelton, M.D., chair of global public health at Tulane University. “African-Americans still have considerably lower hypertension control rates and more complications for any given level of high blood pressure compared to whites. It’s the biggest problem in high blood pressure in this country, and we need to find ways to close the gap for disparities.”

“It’s an incredibly important topic to report on,” said University of Michigan cardiologist and researcher Kenneth Jamerson, M.D., who wasn’t involved in the report. “If everyone has the same access to therapies that remediate disease, why wouldn’t everyone have a parallel reduction in disease?”

The report noted hypertension is less well controlled in African-Americans compared to non-Hispanic whites (49.5 percent vs. 53.9 percent) despite higher awareness and higher usage of blood pressure-lowering medications. As a result, African-Americans also have a higher risk of blood pressure-related cardiovascular disease and renal (kidney) disease, according to the report.