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African Americans are More Likely to Develop High Blood Pressure by Middle Age

CardioSmart News

Black adults are up to two times more likely to develop high blood pressure by age 55 compared to whites, with many of these racial differences developing before age 30, concludes a study recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Known as the CARDIA Study (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults), this study tracked the blood pressure of U.S. adults from young adulthood through middle age. It included 3,890 adults between the ages of 18 and 30, all of who were free of high blood pressure at baseline and followed for up to 30 years.

Participants were from four U.S. cities including Birmingham, Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland and enrolled in the study during the mid-1980s.

The goal of the recent analysis was to see how many blacks developed high blood pressure and at what age compared to whites. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Blacks face significantly higher rates of hypertension compared to whites.

By the end of the CARDIA study, 75% of blacks had developed high blood pressure, compared to just 55% of white men and 40% of white women. Depending on participant’s initial blood pressure, this difference translated to 1.5–2 times greater risk for hypertension among black adults than whites.

Researchers note that many of these differences developed by age 30, highlighting the need for early intervention.

They also found that regardless of race, a number of factors were associated with increased risk for hypertension, such as being overweight or obese and having a family history of high blood pressure. These risk factors are well-established and known to increase risk for both hypertension and heart disease.

Experts also found that adherence to the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which limits salt intake and promotes a heart-healthy diet, was associated with lower risk for hypertension.

The take-home message, according to authors, is the importance of high blood pressure prevention in blacks beginning at a young age. There are many simple ways to reduce risk for high blood pressure, such as staying active, eating healthy, and maintaining a healthy weight. Over time, these steps can help significantly reduce risk for high blood pressure, especially when adopted earlier in life.

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