Beyond their greater risk of high blood pressure in general, African Americans face a quicker progression from pre-hypertension to hypertension than whites with the same condition, according to a study published in Hypertension and reported by HealthDay News.

A blood pressure reading measures the force that blood exerts against the walls of the arteries. High blood pressure is linked to several health problems. Pre-hypertension is a systolic (when the heart is pumping) blood pressure reading between 120 and 139 and a diastolic (resting) blood pressure measurement between 80 and 89. High blood pressure is a reading of 140/90 or higher. (An ideal high blood pressure reading is 120/80 or less.)

For the study, researchers analyzed the electronic medical records of 18,865 adults from 197 health clinics in the southeastern United States. The participants were between 18 and 85 years old, and 30 percent were black.

Researchers found that black patients progressed from pre-hypertension to hypertension and developed the condition one year earlier 35 percent more often than their white counterparts.

In addition, researchers found that people were at an increased risk of rapid progression to hypertension if they had a systolic blood pressure ranging from 130 to 139, if they had type 2 diabetes, and if they were 75 or older, overweight or obese.

“This means the well-known end points of hypertension, such as kidney failure, stroke and heart failure, could occur faster in blacks than in whites,” said study author Anbesaw Selassie, MPH, DrPH, an epidemiologist at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

The findings suggested that early intervention, with medication or lifestyle changes, might help prevent high blood pressure risk among black patients. (Lifestyle changes include losing weight, eating less salt and maintaining a fruit- and veggie-rich diet, with low-fat and non-fat dairy products and whole grains.)

There are also some fun ways to lower your blood pressure. Click here to learn how laughter and music may be just what the doctor ordered.