High Blood Pressure Among Black People

The rate of high blood pressure among Black people in the United States is among the highest in the world.

About 55% of Black adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Black people also have higher rates  of more severe high blood pressure than other ethnic groups and it develops earlier in life.

Historical and systemic factors play a major role in these numbers. These factors include adverse social determinants of health, the conditions in which a person is born and lives. The factors include lack of access to health care and healthy foods and other issues.

There is a lower rate of taking blood pressure medications  among Black people, partly due to lack of access to those medications and a distrust of the health care community based on historical discrimination.

Some medications also may be less effective in controlling high blood pressure in some Black people. They may need two or more medications to achieve their blood pressure goal.

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Causes and effects of high blood pressure

Black people face higher rates of obesity and diabetes. Higher rates of these conditions increase the risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to other conditions and even death. It is a major risk factor for stroke, heart failure and kidney disease

Overcoming the challenges of blood pressure management

A healthy weight, diet and physical activity can help to lower blood pressure. But many Black people struggle with these issues because they aren’t simple.

For example, many neighborhoods lack stores that sell healthier foods. If buying affordable, nutritious food in your neighborhood is challenging, consider:

  • Canned, dried or frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Low-sodium, reduced-sodium or no-salt-added canned vegetables
  • Frozen vegetables that aren't seasoned or in sauces
  • Canned fruit in water, with its own juice, or light syrup
  • Canned or dried fruit with no added sugars
  • Powdered milk

Areas that have lacked investment often don’t have safe places to walk, run or exercise. You don’t have to join a gym or buy your own equipment to fit in physical activity. These low- or no-cost resources can offer access to safe places to exercise:

  • YMCA
  • Community centers or senior centers
  • Parks and recreation departments
  • Faith-based groups

You need access to social support, safe environments and affordable, high-quality medical care and medication to manage blood pressure.

If you need help accessing care or finding transportation for medical appointments, ask your health care team for support with finding resources.

If you're having trouble paying for your medication, there are a few things you can do to get help.

  • Ask if there is a medication that costs less.
  • Check if the company that makes your medication offers assistance programs. Many drug companies have programs that provide medications if you are facing financial difficulties or are uninsured.
  • Look into government programs such as Medicaid or Medicare. They can help cover the cost of medications for eligible people. 

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