According to new findings published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, nearly one third of young Black Americans are living with hypertension (high blood pressure), putting them at earlier risk for other health problems, such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure, reports HealthDay News.
In an ongoing federal health investigation, researchers found that high blood pressure was prevalent among more than 15,000 adults between ages 18 and 24 across all racial groups. While Black adults were more likely to develop the condition, 22% of white and 22% of Mexican Americans were also living with the illness.
In addition, despite these high rates, only a few young adults were receiving treatment, and no more than 15% were able to get their numbers below 130/80 mm Hg and control the condition. (Hypertension is defined as having a blood pressure reading of 130/80 mm Hg or higher.) One third of young Black adults were being treated for high blood pressure, followed by 21% of Mexican Americans and 24% of white Americans.
Most young people didn’t know they had hypertension and hadn’t been prescribed medication. This could be because doctors sometimes downplay the risks of the condition among this population and may be less likely to prescribe meds to younger individuals.
Not only do the findings mirror similar racial disparities among older adults, they also show that these differences are expressed much earlier. Although the reasons for the inequities are unclear, scientists suggested that poverty, racism-related stress and lack of access to health care and healthy foods may be involved.
Although people often associate high blood pressure with older people, young adults aren’t exempt from developing hypertension. “These findings are not unexpected, given the rising rates of obesity in the U.S.,” said Nieca Goldberg, MD, a volunteer expert with the American Heart Association. “Younger people also tend to eat a lot of fast food, which is high in sodium [which is linked to high blood pressure]. And many aren’t getting enough exercise.”
The good news is that lifestyle changes—in addition to medication—can help prevent and treat hypertension among young people. This means exercising regularly, adhering to a low-salt diet, eating more fruits and vegetables and avoiding smoking.
For related coverage, read “Why John Singleton’s Family Encourages Black Men to Check Their Blood Pressure,” “Discrimination Elevates Hypertension Risk for African Americans” and “Living in a Segregated Neighborhoods Linked to Higher Blood Pressure Among Blacks.”