Just a few healthy lifestyle habits can reduce black Americans’ risk of high blood pressure, researchers say.
“We found that even small improvements in cardiovascular health can reduce risk for developing high blood pressure,” said study lead author John Booth III, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Nearly one-third of American adults have high blood pressure, but it is more common among blacks than whites. Among blacks, 45 percent of men and 46 percent of women have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can damage arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke.
For the study, Booth’s team assessed how closely more than 5,000 black Americans followed modifiable healthy behaviors recommended by the heart association.
The AHA’s “Life’s Simple 7” guidelines include: not smoking; maintaining a healthy weight; eating healthy; being physically active; maintaining healthy blood sugar levels; controlling cholesterol levels; and managing blood pressure.
During a follow-up of about eight years, half of the study participants developed high blood pressure. But those who led a relatively healthy lifestyle were less likely to do so than others, the findings showed.
More than 81 percent of the participants who followed none or only one of the healthy behaviors developed high blood pressure, compared with about 11 percent of those who followed six of the behaviors — a 90 percent difference, the researchers said.
Even people with at least two of the healthy behaviors at the start of the study had a 20 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure than those with none or just one of the healthy behaviors, the investigators found.
None of the study participants initially followed all seven healthy behaviors. Those who followed more of the recommendations tended to be younger, female, have at least a high school education, and a household income of at least $25,000 a year, according to the report.
The results were published recently in the journal Hypertension.
“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,” Booth said in a journal news release.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute outlines the risk factors for high blood pressure.