African Americans' Health

For African Americans, high-blood pressure is a killer leading to a much higher risk of heart disease and stroke than in whites.

Doctors call high-blood pressure, or hypertension, the silent killer, and if you're African American you can't afford to ignore it.

Checking your blood pressure is a quick procedure, but it can save your life. Hypertension greatly increases your chances of developing heart disease or stroke, and if you’re African American your risk is higher than whites.

"Some things we are able to prevent and change, but you can't change your gene's and so because we know it's more prevalent it's more important we push harder for preventative care."

Blacks are almost twice as likely than whites to die from high-blood pressure. Besides heredity, a diet rich in saturated fats and salt are also blamed for the increased risk among African Americans.

"Watch your weight, watch your salt intake, watch your fat intake, and see your doctor once a year at least."

Ideal blood pressure is 120/80, for help bringing your blood pressure down to this level there are several things you can do. You should reduce fat calories to no more than 30 percent of you total calories, give up smoking, and get some exercise.

"All things in moderation. Do as your mama told you. Eat in moderation, exercise in moderation, alcohol in moderation."

It takes some changes, but doctors say that hypertension diseases are preventable. To coincide with black history month, health week kicks off Saturday with a wellness program at Bethel AME Church. Extended Web Coverage

Blood Pressure

  • When the heart beats, it pumps blood to the arteries and creates pressure in them – blood pressure.

  • Blood pressure results from two forces, the first force is created as blood pumps into the arteries and the second is created as the arteries resist the blood flow.

  • Hearts beat about 60 – 80 times a minute under normal conditions.

  • Your blood pressure rises with each heartbeat and fall when your heart relaxes between beats.

What do blood pressure numbers indicate?

  • The higher (systolic) number represents the pressure while the heart is beating.

  • The lower (diastolic) number represents the pressure when the heart is resting between beats.

  • The systolic pressure is always stated first and the diastolic pressure second. Example: 122/76, said as 122 over 76.

  • Blood pressure of less than 140 over 90 is considered a normal reading for adults.

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

  • In 90 to 95 percent of high blood pressure cases, the cause is unknown.

  • Factors that may lead to high blood pressure in the remaining 5-10 percent of cases include, kidney abnormality, large blood vessel leaving the heart, narrowing of certain arteries.

  • High blood pressure adds to the workload of your heart and arteries. Your heart must pump harder.

  • There is increased risk of stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney failure and heart attack. When high blood pressure exists with obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol levels or diabetes, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases several times.

Low Blood Pressure

  • Within certain limits, the lower your blood pressure reading is, the better.

  • It is possible for blood pressure to be too low. This may cause certain nerve disorders or endocrine disorders, prolonged bed rest, decreases in blood volume due to severe bleeding (hemorrhage_ or dehydration.

How do you treat abnormal blood pressure?

  • High blood pressure is a lifelong disease. It can be controlled but not cured.

  • The first thing to do is to have your blood pressure checked.

  • Treatment for high blood pressure may include a low-fat diet, a low-salt diet, and changes in your living habits such as losing weight and getting more exercise. Quitting smoking is also important to reduce your overall risk for heart attack and stroke.

  • Many medicines also can help reduce and control high blood pressure.

  • Always consult your physician to find out what type of treatment will work best for your body.

Source: contributed to this report.