Your risk of having high blood pressure by the age of 55 is influenced by many factors, including your family history, sex, diet, lifestyle and whether you are black or white. A new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, analysed the results from 3,890 people taking part in the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) study, who enrolled from the age of 18 years and were followed to at least the age of 55.
According to the researchers, racial differences in the risk of developing hypertension became apparent before the age of 30 years and, by the time those taking part reached the age of 55 years, the number who developed hypertension (based on the new American cut-off of 130/80 mmHg) were:
- 75.7% of black women
- 75.5% of black men
- 54.5% of white men
- 40% of white women.
Overall, black men and women had a 1.5 to 2 times higher risk of developing hypertension than white men and women, after taking all other potential risk factors into account, such as smoking, alcohol use, weight, diet and exercise level.
Those with a parental history of hypertension, and those who were overweight, were also more likely to develop high blood pressure, regardless of their race or gender, while those who followed the low-salt, Mediterranean style DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet were less likely to develop hypertension.
Why these differences exist is not fully understood, but in an accompanying press release, Dr Willie Lawrence, a spokesman for the American Heart Association and Chief of Cardiology at Research Medical Center, Kansas City, urged all young adults to make healthy diet and lifestyle changes to safeguard their future health and change these statistics. This is especially important for young African Americans who have the highest risk of developing high blood pressure which, in turn, increases their long-term risk of a heart attack or stroke.
If you are over the age of 30 and haven’t had your blood pressure measured in the last year, it’s a good idea to have it checked sooner rather than later, whatever your skin colour. With the recent change in the level at which hypertension is diagnosed in the United States, you may already be within – or close to – the hypertensive range and need to take steps to bring your blood pressure down. There are relatively simple things you can do to help improve your blood pressure naturally, but many people will also need to take medication to control their hypertension.
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