(Photo courtesy Black Health Matters)
Hypertension is known as “the silent killer,” as it frequently shows no signs or symptoms. Unfortunately, African Americans are more likely than White Americans to have high blood pressure, develop it when younger, and have worse outcomes.
The good news is it’s possible to control high blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and other conditions. During the recent virtual Close the Gap health summit hosted by Black Health Matters and Boston Scientific, Dr. Brittany Fuller, an Interventional Cardiologist at the Edith and Benson Ford Heart and Vascular Institute at Henry Ford Hospital, shared a lot of great information on this topic.
Starting with the basics, Dr. Fuller explained how hypertension develops in the body. “When blood leaves the heart, it provides oxygen and nutrients to all organs in the body. The blood travels through tubes called arteries. When a person has blood pressure higher than normal, it pushes against the walls of the arteries leading to hypertension.”
According to Dr. Fuller, while this is happening inside your body, it’s often difficult to notice any symptoms making it hard to know your risk before it’s too late. That’s why getting regular checkups and knowing your blood pressure numbers are so important.
But that’s not the only way to reduce your risk. Dr. Fuller also recommends eating a diet full of fruits, vegetables and grains, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising at least 30 minutes 5 times a week and sleeping at least 7 to 8 hours a night to help keep your blood pressure at a healthy rate.
Her other tips include not smoking, limiting how much alcohol you drink and reducing your salt intake to at least 1,500 to 2,300 mg a day, especially since African Americans don’t process salt easily.
So what if you already have hypertension? What’s the best way to manage it? According to Dr. Fuller, you can keep your blood pressure under control with medication like water pills, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB), or angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE), or beta blockers. The only issue… you may experience some side effects. If that happens, she recommends reaching out to your doctor to figure out which prescription will work best for you.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR NUMBERS
Staying on top of your blood pressure levels is key. And the more you understand what the numbers mean, the better. Check out the easy guide below.
Normal: Less than 120 (systolic) and 80 (diastolic)
Elevated: 120-129 (systolic) and less than 80 (diastolic)
High Blood Pressure Stage 1: 130-139 (systolic) or 80-89 (diastolic)
High Blood Pressure Stage 2: 140 and higher (systolic) 90 and higher (diastolic)
Hypertensive Crisis: Higher than 180 and/or higher than 120
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