How to Understand Your High Blood Pressure
High blood Pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition throughout the world. Having high blood pressure increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing through your blood vessels. When the force is consistently too high, it is considered high blood pressure.
Blood Pressure in the Black Community
Though high blood pressure impacts every ethnic group, it is significantly more prevalent in the Black community and develops at a younger age than other ethnic groups.
According to the CDC, high blood pressure is 56% more common in non-Hispanic Black adults as compared to 48% in non-Hispanic white adults, 46% in non-Hispanic Asian adults, and 39% in Hispanic adults.
Research has yet to determine why it is more prevalent in the Black community. However, studies suggest several factors contribute including health disparities.
The Silent Killer
High blood pressure is often referred to as the silent killer because usually there are no symptoms. In rare cases, severe high blood pressure may cause the following symptoms:
- Severe headache
- Chest pain
- Change in vision
- Shortness of breath
If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. It can be the difference between life and death.
Unmanaged High Blood Pressure
When high blood pressure is not managed properly, it can lead to life-altering or threatening health conditions such as:
- Heart disease
- Blood vessels disease
- Kidney disease
- Vision loss
- Erectile dysfunction
Annual visits with your primary care doctor are necessary to identify and manage your blood pressure.
Understanding Your Blood Pressure Reading
During the visit, your health care provider will check your blood pressure. They will give you a reading as the first number over a second number. The first number is the systolic pressure, and the second is the diastolic pressure.
- Systolic pressure is when blood pumps out of the heart and arteries.
- Diastolic pressure is when the heart rests between beats.
You can control the following risk factors:
- Obesity or being overweight
- Alcohol intake
- Level of physical activity
- Unhealthy diet (high sodium, low in potassium)
Managing Your Blood Pressure
Your primary care doctor can help you manage your blood pressure. Attending scheduled appointments and following the doctor’s recommendations are crucial.
Your doctor will determine which treatment options are best for you based on your numbers. Then, your doctor may prescribe medication or offer suggestions on how to change your lifestyle.
Understanding your health condition is vital to managing it. However, if you don’t know something, do not hesitate to ask your doctor. The doctor-patient relationship requires trust and a level of comfort.
How Discrimination Contributes to Unchecked Blood Pressure
Having a level of ease and trust is essential when seeking medical help. Unfortunately, many Black, people of color, and Indigenous people report feeling unheard and discriminated against during their doctor’s visits. This happens too often and reduces the likelihood of patients asking questions and returning for a follow-up visit.
Having a doctor with the same or similar race/culture can improve health outcomes. Studies have shown increased patient follow-up when a doctor reflects all the populations served. Check out Connect2Heal and find a doctor or specialist near you.