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Healthy Lifestyle Lowers Risk for High Blood Pressure in African Americans

CardioSmart News

Seven simple behaviors have a big impact on risk for hypertension, based on a recent study that found a healthy lifestyle reduces risk for high blood pressure by up to 90% in black adults.

Published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, this study explored risk for hypertension among African-American adults.

Hypertension, often referred to as high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control, high blood pressure affects one in three American adults and contributes to nearly 1,000 deaths a day.

However, high blood pressure does not affect all races equally. Research shows that African-Americans develop high blood pressure more often and at an earlier age than whites and Hispanics, with high blood pressure affecting up to 46% of black adults. While treatment can improve outcomes for adults with high blood pressure, prevention is far more effective.

To learn more about prevention, researchers looked at the impact of Life’s Simple 7 on risk for hypertension in African-Americans.

Life’s Simple 7 are a set of goals developed by the American Heart Association to reduce risk for heart disease—America’s No.1 killer. These goals include eating healthy, staying active, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.

The recent analysis included nearly 1,900 individuals from the Jackson Heart Study, which tracked the cardiovascular health of black U.S. adults from Jackson, MS. Participants were free of high blood pressure at the start of the study and were followed for roughly 8 years.

Based on medical exams and health questionnaires, very few participants had ideal health. In fact, none met all of Life’s Simple 7 goals, and 7% met just one or none. During the follow-up period, half of participants developed hypertension, most of which met one or none of Life’s Simple 7.

After analysis, researchers found that the healthier one’s lifestyle was, the lower the risk for hypertension. Participants meeting 6 of the heart-healthy criteria had 90% lower risk of developing hypertension than those meeting one or none. Those with 4 or 5 healthy behaviors had 70–73% lower risk of hypertension. Even those with 2 healthy behaviors had 20% lower risk than those with one or none.

Findings highlight the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially for African-Americans who face disproportionately high risk for hypertension. Simple steps like eating healthy and staying active can help significantly lower risk for both high blood pressure and heart disease. As authors explain, even small improvements in just a few of these behaviors can have a significant impact on risk for high blood pressure.

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