Black women living in U.S. ‘stroke/hypertension’ belt have worst high blood pressure.

It is now common knowledge that more than 77 million American adults have high blood pressure and that black people are most susceptible. A new study of 70,000 people has confirmed this adding that black women are more prone to having high blood pressure than black men and white men and women.

The research, published by Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, included participants living in the 12 southeastern states — referred to as “The Stroke Belt” because of higher stroke incidences. Results showed that the high blood pressure rate among black women was 64 percent, while it was 52 percent in white women and 51 percent in black and white men.

“For many years, the focus for high blood pressure was on middle-aged men who smoked; now we know better,” said Uchechukwu K. A. Sampson, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., study author and assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. “We should look for it in everyone and it should be treated aggressively — especially in women, who have traditionally gotten less attention in this regard.”

The researchers also found that 57 percent of the people studied were diagnosed with high blood pressure; high blood pressure was 59 percent more common in blacks than whites (52 percent); blacks were twice as likely as whites to have uncontrolled high blood pressure; and men were more likely to have uncontrolled high blood pressure than women. Among those who had high blood pressure, 31 percent of black men didn’t know they had it, 28 percent of black women, 27 percent of white men, and 17 percent of white women. Among those who knew they had high blood pressure, 82 percent were being treated with medications. Among people who knew they had high blood pressure, 44 percent were taking at least two types of medicines, and only 29 percent were on a diuretic — a recommended first-line medication to lower their blood pressure.

According to Sampson, “we have so many medications and evidenced-based treatments, but we still face this problem.” He suggested an emphasis on determining the barriers associated with poor uptake of treatment guidelines. He also said there is a need to increase funding for programs that increase use of effective medications, and encourage healthier eating and more exercise. It would also be wise to screen everyone regularly and follow American Heart Association guidelines. He suggests that hypertensives ask about their blood pressure at each annual check-up and, if it’s high, to check their levels daily between appointments — at home or at a pharmacy — and to follow up frequently with a doctor to ensure it’s at a safe level!

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