Hypertension: The Risk Factors Are Higher for African American Males

By Meta J. Mereday


The fact that hypertension risk factors are higher among African American males should be no surprise considering the other risk factors that lead to this deadly disease. 

Hypertension, which is better known as high blood pressure, is among those serious conditions that are known as “silent killers.” This is due largely because there are generally no symptoms until serious complications develop.

However, there are hypertension risk factors that African Americans in particular should become more aware. According to the medical website WebMD, among the most critical hypertension risk factors are: obesity, smoking, little or no exercise, high salt intake, stress and ethnic background.

African Americans are more likely to develop hypertension than any other ethnic or racial group. This disease also occurs at an earlier age for African Americans and it is most often more severe. 

Also, men are generally more prone to hypertension than women, thus African American males have a higher predisposition to hypertension or high blood pressure than African American women. 

According to a recent report commissioned by the Center for Disease Control along with the Institute of Medicine, hypertension is still considered a “neglected disease” because there is not as much attention directed to this disease that is treatable as there is to heart attacks and cancer.

There are many treatment options in place to lower blood pressure including medications coupled with proper diet, lowered sodium intake and increased exercise. However, left untreated hypertension can cause stroke, heart attack, kidney problems, eye problems and death.   

Despite the awareness of the hypertension risk factors, there are many in the African American community who fail to correct these circumstances and to live healthier lifestyles.

For African Americans being more susceptible to a disease in which the symptoms can go unnoticed makes it even more important to have regular physicals and to focus on improving dietary conditions and reducing daily stress.  

In most cases, this is easier said than done when diet and exercise are far removed from daily living. 

Often, African American men do not have the same access to resources to help them reduce stress and become healthier. Organizations such as Empowered Health Partnerships, a non-profit organization founded to address health disparities, are geared towards increasing awareness regarding the hypertension risk factors and combating the  devastating impact on African American males through its Mark R. Griffith Health Empowerment & Longevity Project (MRG HELP), which was established in 2008 following the sudden death of Mark R. Griffith, an award-winning broadcast journalist and community advocate, who died due to a hypertensive heart attack.

Griffith was 48-years-old and showed no known symptoms.  The MRG HELP provides a broad-based approach that calls attention to hypertension risk factors and helps to educate African American men and their families regarding the importance of regular medical examinations, stress reduction, exercise and nutrition. 

Through programs designed to increase education, awareness and resources, more African American males can learn how to live longer and healthier lives by discovering that they have the power to beat the odds due to the many treatment options available to control hypertension. 

Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

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