Thank you to all the sisters who attended and contributed to Monday's chat. In researching hypertension for our Sister Chat, I used information from the following websites: Patient Health International, http://www.patienthealthinternational.com/article/519630.aspx The American Heart Association, http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=2114 How being black affects your blood pressure, MayoClinic.com, Special to CNN.com, http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/HI/00067.html . Here's a recap of what was discussed: 1. What is hypertension? Blood pressure is the force in the arteries when the heart beats (systolic pressure) and when the heart is at rest (diastolic pressure). It's measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). In an adult hypertension blood pressure greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg systolic pressure or greater than or equal to 90 mm Hg diastolic pressure. American Heart Association recommended blood pressure levels: Normal, systolic less than 120 mm Hg, and diastolic less than 80 mm Hg Prehypertension, systolic 120–139 mm Hg, or diastolic 80–89 mm Hg High Stage 1 systolic 140–159 or diastolic 90–99 Stage 2 systolic 160 or higher or systolic 100 or higher One of our sisters mentioned that what is normal blood pressure for one adult, may be considered a high reading for others. If her blood pressure raises above the lower end of normal, for her this would be a high reading. 2. How is blood pressure measured? The only way to know if your blood pressure is high for sure, is to have it checked. Blood pressure is measured using a medical instrument called a sphygmomanometer, the rubber cuff which is wrapped around your upper arm and inflated. 3. What are the types of high blood pressure? There are two main types of high blood pressure: Essential (primary) hypertension, which is the main form of high blood pressure. It has no single identifiable cause, but may be caused by genetic and environmental factors. Secondary hypertension, consists of rare forms of high blood pressure, which is caused by another medical condition or treatment. 4. What are the risk factors for hypertension? Controllable risk factors: Obesity Eating too much salt Drinking too much alcohol Lack of physical activity Stress Uncontrollable risk factors: Race Heredity Age 5. Are there any symptoms? High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, many people have this disease for years and don't know it. Occasionally high blood pressure does cause symptoms, but this is more likely to occur when the blood pressure is extremely high. Possible symptoms are: Headache Tiredness Confusion Changes in vision (e.g., blurred vision) Dizziness Uneven heartbeat 6. What diseases can hypertension contribute to? High blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke, heart attacks, heart failure, kidney failure and atherosclerosis (fatty buildups in arteries). In some cases, it can cause blindness. 7. How is hypertension treated? Lifestyle Changes: Stay within the healthy weight range for your height and body structure. Being overweight is an important cause of high blood pressure. Restrict your salt intake, salt contributes to fluid retention, which raises the blood pressure. Reduce your fat intake and increase fruits, vegetables, and fiber. This will keep the heart and blood vessels healthy and will also help you keep your weight under control. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol raises the blood pressure and is associated with heart and kidney disease. It is also high in calories, so can cause you to gain weight. Avoid excessive caffeine consumption. Drinking more than five cups of coffee a day can increase your blood pressure. Regular exercise helps to keep the heart and blood vessels healthy, and also keeps your weight under control. Don't smoke. Smoking does not directly increase blood pressure, but it is strongly linked to heart disease. Manage stress with relaxation techniques (e.g., stress management, meditation, cognitive therapies, muscle relaxation techniques) Medication: Some people can reach their blood pressure goal by changing their lifestyle and exercise habits. But most people will also need to take medications to keep their blood pressure at a healthy level. A few of those medications are described here. Diuretics are sometimes called “water pills” because they work in the kidney and flush excess water and salt from the body. Beta-blockers reduce the effects of nerve impulses and stress hormones to the heart and blood vessels, thereby lowering heart rate and blood pressure. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors ACE inhibitors prevent the formation of a hormone called angiotensin II, which normally causes blood vessels to contract. The blood vessels relax, and pressure goes down. Calcium-channel blockers (CCB) stop calcium from entering the muscle cells of the heart and blood vessels. Again, this helps blood vessels to relax, so blood pressure goes down. 8. Why is high blood pressure so prevalent among Blacks? If you're Black and living in the United States, you're more likely than a person of another race to develop hypertension, and to develop it earlier in your life. Researchers are still studying precisely why some blacks are at greater risk. The debate centers on the old nature vs. nurture debate. Genetic susceptibility (nature). Genetics has historically been blamed for a higher rate of hypertension among blacks. In general Black people respond differently to certain blood pressure medications and are more sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of sodium. Newer data indicates that when Blacks live traditional lifestyles in rural African countries, few blood pressure problems are indicated. This may point the finger, instead, at environmental causes. Environment (nurture). Worldwide, the rate of hypertension among Black people is not unusually high compared with that of whites. In the United States, though, about 41 percent of blacks have hypertension, compared with 27 percent of whites. Some researchers say that difference is the result of socioeconomic differences between blacks and whites. Blacks are more likely to be over weight, may eat a diet high in sodium and low in potassium, and may experience more socioeconomic stress because of societal prejudices. All of those factors are risks for developing high blood pressure. ******* Hope to see you sisters on Monday, May 7th. That's a wrap, for now.