FACT – African Americans experience the largest differences in health risks compared to other minority groups. We also have higher rates of diseases, disability and early death. African American women are challenged with facing many health concerns – particularly those in the image above.
There are many reasons these diseases persist in our community – availability and access to affordable health care, or the lack of health care in general, systemic poverty and racism, genetics, cultural differences and late detection.
I want to help you take a more proactive approach to managing your health and decreasing the rates of these diseases among African American women. Over the next few weeks, I’ll tackle these diseases and sometime chronic conditions and share how African American women are at risk, the hard numbers, contributing behaviors and some prevention strategies and tips. In the battle for your health, knowledge is power!
This week: High Blood Pressure
What is it: It’s the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps out blood. If this pressure increases and remains high, it's called high blood pressure or hypertension. This means the blood can't flow easily through your blood vessels, which puts pressure on your vessels, damaging them as well as straining your heart. The blood struggles to get to your organs, placing you at high risk of a stroke. Hypertension is the leading cause of stroke in the U.S. It also puts you at risk for a heart attack, chronic heart failure and kidney disease.
Did you Know: African American women develop high blood pressure/hypertension earlier in life and have higher average blood pressures compared with white women. More black women than men have high blood pressure. About 43% of African American men and 45.7% of African American women.
Normal = <120 (systolic)/<80 (diastolic)
Prehypertension = 120-139/80-89
Hypertension – Stage 1: 140-159/90-99
Hypertension – Stage 2: >160/>100
Behaviors that increase your chances of having high blood pressure:
• Obesity (or being overweight)
• Alcohol use
• Eating too much salt
• A family history of high blood pressure
• Not being physically active
Making just a few lifestyle changes can help you prevent or control high blood pressure:
• Overweight/Obese? Losing just 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure. You can do this by making exercise a non-negotiable part of your day. Adults should aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity; or a combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days of the week.
• Eat lots of fruits, vegetables (think green) and whole grains. Choose lean meats and low-fat dairy products.
• Limit your salt. African Americans shouldn’t consume more than 1,500mg of sodium a day because we’re considered a higher risk population.
• Quit smoking - TODAY
• Limit your alcohol consumption to one glass a day.
• Reduce stress.
• Know your risks – check your family history, and make an appointment with your primary care physician to get your numbers.
Remember, knowledge is power! It’s never too late to take charge of your health. If you are currently experiencing hypertension, incorporating the strategies above will help lower your blood pressure, lower your chances of having a stroke and empower you to make healthy lifestyle changes. If you’re not sure what you’re blood pressure is make that appointment today!
ACE Health Coach Manual