African-Americans Face Hypertension Crisis

There is a health crisis in the African-American community. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects nearly 6 million black men and women. If left untreated, the consequences can be deadly. High blood pressure kills approximately 60,000 more African-Americans than white Americans each year.

In the black population, high blood pressure starts earlier, progresses faster, and is more severe. When uncontrolled, high blood pressure can cause kidney failure, stroke, and heart disease-all of which occur more frequently in African-Americans than in whites. According to Paul Douglass, MD, President of the Association of Black Cardiologists and Clinical Associate Professor at Morehouse School of Medicine, blacks, when compared with whites, have about twice the number of strokes, 5 times more heart failure, and 18 times more kidney failure related to high blood pressure.

Diet may be an important way to help control high blood pressure. African-Americans are advised to eat less fried foods, lunch meat, and more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and breads. Exercise is also an important part of treatment, especially for many African-American women who tend to be physically inactive. Daily walks, for example, can be an effective way to control blood pressure and lose weight. Control of blood pressure may require medication in addition to diet and exercise.

Although there are many available high blood pressure medications, still only 25% of African-Americans have their high blood pressure under control. One reason for the low rate of control is that some patients may stop taking their medications because of side effects. In addition, Dr. Douglass notes that not all blood pressure medications work well in all patient populations. It's important that age, gender, and race are considered when treating hypertension. There are newer, once-daily calcium channel blockers like Norvasc® (amiodipine besylate) that are safe, effective, and well tolerated in African-Americans. The most common side effects of Norvasc are headache and edema.

Norvasc is just one of many high blood pressure medications that are being examined in two large National Institutes of Health studies. The African-American Study of Kidney Disease (AASK) and the Anti-hypertensive and Lipid-Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial (ALLHAT) hope to answer questions on the best way to treat high blood pressure, especially in the African-American community.

High blood pressure is a painless yet deadly disease that affects an estimated 43 million Americans. The good news is that with the proper diagnosis and treatment, African-Americans can control and reduce the risk of high blood pressure.(NAPSI)

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