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Racism Causes High Blood Pressure

by Jerry Bader

So says the Society for Vascular Surgery. Okay, they say it's a factor. But as I started reading this, I wondered when racism was going to show up and it's the first after dietary and other health factors:

CHICAGOOne to three adults in the United States will have hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure (HBP) in their lifetime. Ideally, adults should keep their blood pressure reading at 140 or under for the top number (systolic) and 90 for the lower number (diastolic). People who have diabetes or kidney disease should have numbers under 130/80.

“Vascular surgeons always are working with their patients to encourage them to check their blood pressure regularly to avoid problems later, because HBP can be a predecessor for heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States,” said Anil Hingorani, MD, a vascular surgeon at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, and a member of the Society for Vascular Surgery®.  “Research continues to be done on how to avoid HBP and one of the most startling statistics is that approximately 41 percent of African American males have nearly double the incidence of HBP compared to their Caucasian counterparts.

"Overseas Africans seem to follow a simpler lifestyle and diet, which results in lower blood pressure," noted Dr. Hingorani. "Black Americans are more likely to have comorbidities like diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, smoking issues, and high salt and fat in their diet – all risk factors for developing HBP. African-Americans develop high blood pressure at younger ages than other ethnic groups in the United States and are more likely to develop complications associated with HBP including stroke, kidney disease, blindness, dementia, and heart disease.

“Researchers have reported that Black Americans may be affected by disparities including stress due to racism, socioeconomic status, educational level, lack of access to quality care and insurance, and racially isolated neighborhoods which can create a higher incidence of HBP for them,” said Dr. Hingorani. "In addition some Black men do not like the current medical system, taking medications, or meeting regularly and talking with one health professional for consistent HBP measurement."

According to a report from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, sometimes Black men don't seek out preventative care because they don't feel any symptoms and as a result do not control the ups and downs of their blood pressure. This survey revealed that only 63 percent of whites, 58 percent of Hispanics and 40 percent of Blacks had blood pressure readings that fell within national guidelines. 

“All Americans can have risk factors for HBP including increased age, excessive weight, family history, diabetes, inactivity, high dietary salt and fat, low intake of potassium or smoking,” added Dr. Hingorani, who added that  anyone with HBP can improve their numbers. Dr. Hingorani suggests eating a variety of foods from all food groups with reasonable portions that are low in salt, fat and carbohydrates, and walking 20 to 30 minutes a day will stay in shape and keep a healthy weight.  He recommends avoiding tobacco use and to stay away from second-hand smoke, and limit alcohol. Above all he says, meet with your health professional to get regular blood pressure checkups, and if needed, take the proper medications as prescribed by your physician to lower your blood pressure.