If you’re black, pay special attention to your blood pressure — even if you think you’re healthy.
That’s because high blood pressure (hypertension) affects certain groups of people differently than others. And for black people in the United States, high blood pressure often occurs earlier in life, is more severe and has more complications.
Find out why you may be at greater risk of high blood pressure if you’re black and what steps you can take to protect yourself.
Why being black increases your risk of high blood pressure
If you’re black and living in the United States, you’re more likely than a person of another race to develop hypertension, and to develop it earlier in your life. Not only that, once you have the disease, you’re more likely to have severe complications, such as stroke, kidney failure and heart disease. In addition, blacks often don’t get treatment until their blood pressure has been high for so long that vital organs have already started to suffer damage.
Researchers are still studying precisely why some blacks are at greater risk.
The issue essentially boils down to the age-old nature vs. nurture debate.
- Genetic susceptibility (nature). Genetics has historically been blamed for a higher rate of hypertension among blacks. That thinking has been supported by evidence that blacks as a group respond differently to certain blood pressure medications and are more sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of sodium. Newer data, however, indicate that blacks living traditional lifestyles in rural African countries experience few
blood pressure problems. This may point the finger, instead, at environmental causes.
- Environment (nurture). Worldwide, the rate of hypertension among blacks is not unusually high compared with that of whites. In the United States, though, about 41 percent of blacks have hypertension, compared with 27 percent of whites. Some researchers suggest that