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75% of black adults develop dangerously high blood pressure before the age of 55, study reveals


Almost 75 percent of black adults develop high blood pressure by the time they hit age 55, a new study has revealed.

That’s three out of every four African-Americans – both men and women – and much higher compared to 55 percent of white men and 40 percent of white women who fall within the same age range.  

Previous research has linked high blood pressure to socioeconomic challenges, such as lower than average household incomes and no insurance, which disproportionately affect blacks, as well as higher rates of obesity and diabetes among blacks. 

The researchers say their new findings indicate that physicians need to closely monitor the blood pressure levels of their young black patients so intervention can be implemented earlier.

Almost 75 percent of black adults develop high blood pressure by the time they hit age 55, a new study has revealed

Almost 75 percent of black adults develop high blood pressure by the time they hit age 55, a new study has revealed

 Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. They’re both measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) 

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is when the force of the blood flowing through your blood vessels is always high. 

It is known as a ‘silent killer’ because most Americans with the condition do not know they have it. 

Not treating high blood pressure puts you at a greater risk of heart attack, stroke, metabolic syndrome and heart failure. 

For the study, the researchers look at almost 4,000 participants who enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study between ages 18 and 30.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when the force of the blood flowing through your blood vessels is always high.

It rarely has noticeable symptoms and is known as a ‘silent killer’ because most Americans with the condition do not know they have it. 

The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.

About 103 million Americans are currently living with high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. They’re both measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).

As a general guide:

  • high blood pressure is considered to be 130/80mmHg or higher
  • Ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
  • Low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower
  • A blood pressure reading between 120/80mmHg and 129/80mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you don’t take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.

If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.

Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Aortic aneurysms
  • Kidney disease
  • Vascular dementia

Source:  American Heart Association

They were identified as being at risk if they had a blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg or higher and were not taking medication to control it. 

By age 55, the researchers found that 75.5 percent of black men and 75.7 percent of black women had high blood pressure.

Meanwhile, 54.5 percent of white men and 40 percent of white women had high blood pressure by age 55. 

This means that, even when adjusting for variables such as exercise habits and family history, blacks had a 1.5 to two times higher risk for hypertension compared with whites.

Although it’s unclear why black adults are disproportionately affected, the team noted that those who weighed more increased their risk of hypertension while those who followed a DASH diet lowered their risk.

The DASH diet, short for the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, encourages eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.

It discourages eating foods that are high in saturated fat such as red meats and full-fat dairy products.  

‘Regardless of blood pressure levels in young adulthood, blacks have a substantially higher risk for developing high blood pressure compared with whites through 55 years of age,’ said co-author Dr S Justin Thomas, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

‘It is urgent that healthcare providers counsel young patients, particularly blacks, about eating a healthy diet, being physically active and controlling body weight. The risk of high blood pressure can be significantly reduced with a healthy lifestyle.’  

Last year, new guidelines for stage 1 hypertension were released by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology that redefined high blood pressure for the first time since 2003.

The guidelines now state someone has high blood pressure if the top number is 130 mmHg or higher and the bottom number is 80 or higher – lower than the previous cutoff of 140/90 mmHg.  

The percentage of US adults with hypertension spiked from 32 percent to almost 46 percent with the new guidelines meaning that more than 103 million Americans live with the condition. 

‘Since the definition for high blood pressure was recently lowered, it is expected that even more young African-American adults will be considered to have high blood pressure,’ said Dr Thomas. 



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