- Created on December 12th, 2005
- By Journey to Wellness
Nearly one in four Americans has hypertension. For African–Americans, the number is even higher. Hypertension is a dangerous condition that may lead to heart attack, stroke or kidney failure. To help you control blood pressure, it’s important to understand what blood pressure is, what causes it to rise, what the risk factors are, and how you can prevent it.
Hypertension occurs when arterioles, small blood vessels that branch off from the arteries, become constricted making it difficult for blood to pass through them. As a result, blood pressure rises causing your heart to work harder. If your blood pressure at rest stays at 140/90 or more, you may have hypertension.
If you have hypertension, a physician can help you manage the condition effectively. Unfortunately, hypertension usually presents no clear symptoms. Some people may experience headaches or dizziness in the morning but, for most, there are no symptoms at all. The easiest and most reliable way to find out if you have hypertension is to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
You may be at greater risk for high blood pressure if you:
- Have a history of hypertension in your family.
- Have a pre–existing condition such as diabetes or kidney disease.
- Are a male.
- Are African–American
- Are over 35 years of age.
- Are obese.
- Are taking oral contraceptives.
- Frequently consume alcoholic beverages.
- Lead a sedentary lifestyle.
Tips For lowering Your Blood Pressure
Most African–Americans can adopt simple lifestyle changes to prevent hypertension. We recommend the following:
- Have your blood pressure checked regularly.
- Eat nutritious foods, including whole grains,fresh fruits and vegetables.
- If your doctor has prescribed medication to help lower your blood pressure, take it as directed.
- Maintain your ideal body weight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Don’t smoke
- Manage stress through relaxation techniques, exercise and develop a positive attitude.
- Cut down on added salt and avoid high sodium foods such as chips, processed meats, fast food, cured or smoked products and prepared foods.
- Limit your daily cholesterol intake to no more than 100 mg per 1000 calories of food.
- Restrict saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of daily calories.
- If you dine out frequently, think carefully about your food choices.
- French and Mexican food tends to be high in fat; Chinese food often is high in sodium. Always look for fresh ingredients cooked lightly with little sauce.
- When reading food labels, beware of the following ingredients, which are other terms for sodium: sodium chloride, salt, MSG, some antacids, soy sauce, baking soda, monosodium, teriyaki sauce, baking powder, Na (chemical symbol)
If you suspect you have hypertension, it is crucial that you see your doctor. Once hypertension is diagnosed, effective treatment can be started. But remember, it is also important to see your doctor regularly for follow–up visits, and report any side effects you might be experiencing.
Untreated hypertension can cause very serious complications. Blacks with hypertension have a higher risk of both heart attack and stroke. Hypertension also increases the risk of developing certain diseases of the heart, blood vessels, kidney, and brain. However, effective treatment of hypertension can help prevent such dangerous complications.