By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
Small health improvements were associated with lower risk of developing high blood pressure for African-Americans, according to new research released Monday.
African-Americans who had at least two modifiable healthy behaviors at the beginning of the study, compared to those with one or none, saw their high blood pressure risk reduced by 20 percent at a follow-up visit.
Researchers also found that there was a 90 percent lower risk for high blood pressure among African-Americans who had at least six of seven modifiable healthy behaviors that are defined as part of the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 compared with participants who followed none or one.
Life’s Simple 7 was developed by the AHA to monitor cardiovascular health in U.S. adults and to help demonstrate that small changes can lead to a big impact in improving heart health. Life’s Simple 7 includes: not smoking; maintaining a healthy weight; eating healthy; being physically active; maintaining healthy blood sugar levels; controlling cholesterol levels and managing blood pressure to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
According to the AHA, currently one out of three adults in America has high blood pressure. Among non-Hispanic blacks, 45 percent of men and nearly half (46.3 percent) of women have high blood pressure.
“The Life’s Simple 7, an approach used by the American Heart Association to monitor cardiovascular health, can also be used to monitor high blood pressure risk in African-Americans, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” said John N. Booth, III, MS, lead study author and PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “We found that even small improvements in cardiovascular health can reduce risk for developing high blood pressure.”
The latest findings were published in the AHA’s journal Hypertension and are based on the Jackson Heart Study, a community-based study designed to assess cardiovascular risk among African- Americans. Blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol were measured in 5,306 study participants. They were also asked about their exercise, eating and smoking habits at the beginning of the study. They were rechecked about eight years later.
Overall, participants who followed more ideal health behaviors were younger and more likely to be women and to have at least a high school education and a household income of at least $25,000 a year.
Booth said that more research is needed to better understand why African-Americans are vulnerable to high blood pressure.
The Jackson Heart Study is funded by Jackson State University, Tougaloo College and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.