Hypertension Hypertension Basics

African-Americans and High Blood Pressure

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Summary & Participants

High blood pressure is a silent killer that presents one of the greatest health risks facing the African American community. Learn how you can control high blood pressure and improve your health.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2009

Webcast Transcript

ANNONCER: One of the most serious health issues in the African-American community is hypertension. Dr. Reginald Robinson a Washington, DC-based cardiologist explains some of the basics of this disease.

REGINALD L. ROBINSON, MD: Hypertension is a disease process; most people will know it by blood pressure. And blood pressure would be a measure of how the heart contracts. The top number, we call that systolic blood pressure. When the heart squeezes, that's the top reading. The bottom reading is when the heart relaxes, called the diastolic blood pressure.

ANNOUNCER: Hypertension is indicated when the blood pressure reading is a number equal or exceeding 140 over 90. Often those who are developing hypertension are unaware of it.

REGINALD L. ROBINSON, MD: The most common symptom is actually nothing. So you don't want to actually have symptoms when you have hypertension. So when you're having symptoms from hypertension, that's when you're having your first stroke or your first symptom of congestive heart failure. Some people, maybe a little more fatigued, headaches, nosebleed, or what we call epistaxis.

ANNOUNCER: The effects of hypertension on the African-American community are extensive.

REGINALD L. ROBINSON, MD: When you look at our population as a whole, we probably have the leading cause of kidney failure from hypertension. When we have hypertension, you're probably four times more likely to have kidney failure or require dialysis. Probably two to four times more likely to have a stroke from hypertension, and hypertension is the leading cause of congestive heart failure in the African-American population.

ANNOUNCER: There are several theories why African-Americans seem to be more susceptible to hypertension.

REGINALD L. ROBINSON, MD: Some think that it's because we're more salt-sensitive, and when we require blood pressure medicines, we usually require two or three medicines to control our blood pressure. There's also the issue of healthcare disparity where a lot of our folks aren't getting the proper treatment or not getting to the doctor to get hypertension control until it's too late, when they're having the symptoms of congestive heart failure or their first heart attack or they're on a dialysis machine.

ANNOUNCER: The risk factors for hypertension range from genetic factors to lifestyle issues like obesity, lack of sufficient exercise, diet, and excessive salt intake. But there is also thought to be a cultural component.

REGINALD L. ROBINSON, MD: We tend to be a little more salt-sensitive; it's something that we've grown from. We had to store things, and what do you do to store things? You put it in salt and that's something that's still ingrained in our and that's something we need to really change.

ANNOUNCER: For those with hypertension, serious complications can arise.

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