High blood pressure: Way too common in black women. But easily treatable

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African-American women in the U.S. are much more likely to have high blood pressure than black men or white men and women combined, a new study finds. Worse yet, researchers also found that high blood pressure in blacks is twice as likely to go unknown and untreated.

The study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, recorded findings from 70,000 people. A total of 65 percent of black women had high blood pressure, compared to 52 percent in white women and 52 percent in black and white men. The population spanned across 12 southeastern states, also known to the medical field as The Stroke Belt due to its higher incidence of stroke.

High blood pressure the silent killer that speaks volumes, affects more than 77 million Americans, with rates higher than 140/90 millimeters of mercury. Previously, the focus has been mostly on middle-aged men who smoked; now researchers say that focus should shift toward women specifically African-American. We should look for it in everyone and it should be treated aggressively especially in women, who have traditionally gotten less attention in this regard, Uchechukwu K.A. Sampson, study author and assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. said.

The fact that it goes undertreated and underdiagnosed among all races and genders is particularly concerning for researchers.

Among those who had high blood pressure, 31 percent of black men, 28 percent of black women, 27 percent of white men and 17 percent of white women were unaware of it. Of those who knew they had high blood pressure, 82 percent were being treated with medications.

We have so many medications and evidenced-based treatments, but we still face this problem, Sampson said.

The emphasis, researchers say, should be on regular check-ups and following American Heart Association guidelines.

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom says, There are 11 distinct classes of blood pressure medications on the market comprising more than 60 drugs. This is a disorder where there are very good drugs to treat a very serious problem. It is unfortunate that these therapies are underutilized.