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Rich and Karla Walker

More than 40% of African-Americans have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. High blood pressure is identified within the following three categories:

• High Blood Pressure Stage 1, which starts at 140/90.

• High Blood Pressure Stage 2, which starts at 160/100.

• Hypertensive Crisis, which starts at 181/111 (emergency care is needed).

Are African-Americans doomed to have high blood pressure simply because they are black?

To illustrate, using a fictitious scenario, Jamilah was diagnosed with High Blood Pressure Stage 2 last year. Recently, she was watching television and was inspired by a news story to enhance her health. Currently, Jamilah is so excited that she calls her best friend, Tisha, to share her new plans to improve her blood pressure. Suddenly, Tisha starts laughing when she hears Jamilah’s plan to improve her blood pressure. Tisha says to Jamilah, “Do you know any black people that do not have high blood pressure?”

“No,”Jamilah says within herself.

At this point, Jamilah is discouraged and accepts that she will have high blood pressure the rest of her life because she is black. However, is the condition of Jamilah’s health due to her race or her taste?

Yes, high blood pressure is prevalent among African-Americans. Thus, many black people anticipate depending on high blood pressure medication for the rest of their life. Unfortunately, in Jamilah’s situation, the high blood pressure medication is only managing her symptoms of high blood pressure; it is not addressing the root cause of why her blood pressure is so high.

For instance, Dr. Smith diagnosed Jamillah with high blood pressure, but she continues to consume at least 10,000 mg of sodium a day. And, she only drinks about four to six ounces of water each day. Based on this information, what should Jamilah’s main priority be to improve her blood pressure? Should it be to substantially reduce her sodium intake and drink more water? Or, is Jamilah’s main solution to take blood pressure medication the rest of her life?

With everything said in mind, are African-American blood pressures doomed to be high simply because they are black? Or, could the culprit behind the prevalence of high blood pressure in the African-American community be other factors besides race?

Certainly, there is hope for African-Americans to collectively improve their blood pressure. What can we learn from Jamilah? Jamilah is consuming way too much sodium. Excessive sodium elevates blood pressure. Also, Jamilah drinks very little water. Consequently, the combination of excessive sodium and a low consumption of water are main contributors for Jamilah’s blood pressure being very high. If Jamilah reduces her sodium intake and drinks more water, she will more than likely lower her blood pressure.

Specifically, the Mayo Clinic recommends that those with high blood pressure, those who are African-American, and those that are age 51 and older consume less than 1500mg of sodium per day. Clearly, the 10,000mg or more of sodium that Jamilah consumed a day was astronomically higher than the healthier recommendation of less than 1500mg. This is sound advice even for those whose blood pressure is managed by medication.

Rich and Karla Walker are Health & Fitness Experts and Success Coaches. www.richandkarlawalker.com

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