Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure is something that affects over 75 million American adults. That’s roughly around a third of the American adult population. Essentially, this translate to being 1 out of every three adults have high blood pressure.
This condition becomes even more concentrated when it comes to the black community. The prevalence of high blood pressure in African Americans is among the highest in the world. An alarming 44 percent of African Americans have hypertension.
Although high blood pressure is NOT a disease (see key #2), the underlying issues that high blood pressure is warning you of, is nothing to ignore.
What complications are ASSOCIATED with High Blood Pressure
To truly combat the potential dangers that high blood pressure is warning you about, it is extremely important to understand that high blood pressure is NOT a disease. Instead, it is simply a sign of an underlying issue. However, if these underlying issues are not dealt with promptly, the chances of these underlying issues exacerbating and progressing to larger and more serious issues is extremely high.
Here are several serious conditions that are a potential result, of the underlying issues high blood pressure is attempting to warn you about:
- Heart disease (#1 cause of death)
- Stroke (#5 cause of death)
- Sexual dysfunction (Both men and women)
- Kidney damage (which can lead to dialysis)
Is it possible to prevent HTN
This is the billion dollar question, no seriously, Billions each year is spent on high blood pressure management, medications or the complications associated with high blood pressure.
Before I answer this question, allow me to dance for a little bit.
When it comes to risk factors for having hypertension, they are broken down into two categories. Modifiable risk factors and non-modifiable risk factor.
Modifiable risk factor means that there are certain habits you may have in life that may play a large part in you having high blood pressure. The reason these are modifiable is that the power resides in you to improve these condition. In other words, if you improve or eliminate these risk factors, the chances of having high blood pressure decreases dramatically.
These risk factors are:
Lack of physical activity- People who are not active are more likely to be vulnerable to many diseases. Physical activity provides a great form of exercise for your heart and circulatory system.
An unhealthy diet- More specifically I am referring to the SAD (standard American diet). Wherever this diet goes, disease is sure to show. This diet is high in processed foods and low in vital healing and rejuvenating nutrients. That makes the SAD the perfect storm for high pressure and almost every other preventable disease.
Excess weight or obesity- More specifically I am referring to body fat. Excess body fat put an additional strain on your already hard working circulatory system and can cause multiple health conditions.
Drinking too much alcohol- Regular, heavy use of alcohol can cause many health problems, including heart failure, stroke and an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). It can cause your blood pressure to increase dramatically and can also increase your risk of cancer, obesity, alcoholism, suicide, and accidents.
Smoking and tobacco use- Using tobacco can cause your blood pressure to temporarily increase. Although this increase is temporary, multiply that by multiple times a day, several times a week, for years. This constant influx of blood pressure along with the ingredients found in cigarettes can contribute to damaged arteries. This goes for second-hand smoke as well.
Stress- Stress is not always a bad thing. Eustress is a type of stress that is beneficial to the individual. This would be things like resistance training. Whereas, Distress is not so beneficial and can lead to anxiety, depression and other psychological issues. During these stressful moments, the body releases hormones to help adapt to the stressor and activate our fight or flight response. But once again, this is intended to be temporary. So things like hating your job, gossip, ratchetness in your Facebook feed, feeling oppressed and hopeless, a strong dislike for those in your life, not being able to pay your light bill, hearing gunshots go off at night as a lullaby and hating where you live, can all cause a constant secretion of hormones that will contribute to increased blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and a shorter lifespan. PS, I forgot to say FACTS!
Non-modifiable risk factors mean that this is something that is out of your control and there is nothing you can do about it. When talking about hypertension, these non-modifiable risk factors would be things like:
- Family history
- Race/ Genetics
I specifically want to focus on the last two bullet points, Family history, and race. We always hear that African Americans are more likely to have hypertension and heart disease. The general, vague and misleading reason given is because it runs in your family and it's in your genes.
Being told this, followed by the individual believing this, actually traps them in this mental framework created by the person giving them this information along with the individual themselves. This is a framework, of the reality of eventually being sick and there is nothing that can be done about it. It’s a box of hopelessness and giving up. Afterall, since it's in your genes, you will eventually have high blood pressure.
The only problem with this mental framework and false reality is that it doesn't exist. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE SICK!
You are not destined to be sick. You are not destined to suffer ailment after ailment without any power and control.
Always focus intensely on the things within your control in life, everything else will only serve as a stressor or lead to stagnation.
In the case of high blood pressure, we definitely want to focus on the things within our control, which would be the modifiable risk factors and not the non-modifiable risk factors.
Why focus on modifiable vs. non-modifiable? For two reasons:
- non-modifiable risk factors such as family history and genetics are not a risk at all. The risk here is an evolutionary mismatch, which will not be expanded on right now, as it will take us off course. The risk is eating the SAD (standard American diet). Genetically, you are not about that life. When it comes to the SAD, really no one is about that life, but other races may tolerate the SAD better, for whatever value that has.
- It has been shown in multiple studies, (1, 2, 3) that modifiable risk factor account for an average of 90-95% when it comes to prevention of hypertension, heart disease, stroke and other preventable diseases.
This means that, even if the racial and genetic component was correct, you are still 90-95% control of your health destiny. Now, you can sit there and focus on that other 5-10% if you want, but this is not what I’m here for.
I am here to educate and empower. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE SICK
OUR GENES DON’T FORGET
At H-BAMN, we understand that we are not our current locations, and our genes do not forget. Meaning that, although you may be in North America, genetically you may still be in Africa. This is crucial to understand, as it plays a huge role in the lopsidedness of diseases we face in this country.
Different races do exist; this is a genetic fact. We are not all the same; this is another fact. Although many seem uncomfortable confronting this fact, it is one that should instead be embraced.
The “we are all the same,” ideology makes for a good afterschool special, but it wreaks havoc when it comes to the disease process. Because what may be good for one group, may seemingly overnight cause heart disease and diabetes at an alarming rate for another group.
Our genes don’t forget, and we should remember that.
When the genetic component of African Americans and hypertension are spoken about, the central genes being referred to are the ones associated with salt sensitivity.
Being salt sensitive means that your body will have an affinity to holding on to the sodium presented in your diet.
This is a useful ability to have when you are an equatorial being, meaning you live in a climate close to the equator where it’s hot. Well, warm and hot climates tend to cause a lot of sweating. Remember, nature doesn't know anything about your fancy AC or fan in your house, so sweating serves as a tool for temperature regulation and cooling.
Have you ever tasted sweat? You don’t have to answer that because I know you have and I know you would agree that it’s very salty. In fact, it pretty much tastes like salt water. Well, imagine sweating profusely day in and day out for all of your life. The reason why sweat taste salty is because it’s coming from the sodium in your body.
Losing too much sodium can cause a huge problem in the electrical system of the body because after all sodium is an electrolyte. Not having sufficient electrolytes can also cause dehydration, muscle cramps, and even seizures. This is why you always see athletes drinking Gatorade and “replenishing” their electrolytes.
Well fast forward to today, and an overwhelming number of people with high blood pressure are consuming the SAD. As I said before, the SAD is filled with processed foods low in nutrients. These foods are also packaged and with the packaging comes with an abundance of sodium. However, the problem with processed foods when it comes to hypertension is not so much the sodium as much as it is believed to be. It’s a collective multitude of chemical irritants found in these foods, which irritates the lining of the endothelium.
In my opinion, blaming salt has been used as a scapegoat and fallman, as well as a way to sell low sodium products. Where I’m from, we call that a hustle. Why? Because you can still buy a low sodium product, that still has processed carbs, trans fats and other chemical irritants that will still have a negative impact on the endothelium. This is not to say that salt has no play in causing hypertension, but it has been greatly exaggerated while ignoring all the other more harmful characteristics of processed food.
It is also very crucial to note this. Nowhere in nature, can you find such high amounts of sodium without the potassium to balance it out. With the exception of very few shellfish, no foods in nature have high amounts sodium, with little to no potassium. However, a disproportionate, discombobulated and unnatural sodium to potassium ratio can definitely be found in man-made processed foods. #howboutdat
Once again, all of this does not equal a genetic destiny of high blood pressure and heart disease. If this were the case, the Africans on the continent of Africa would be affected by hypertension as much as we are. This, however, is not the case. In fact, the increases in hypertension rate that are seen in Africa, correspond with the colonization of the SAD (Standard American Diet). I’m telling you, this diet literally kills!
This part will be very short. When you are asked if you have a family history of high blood pressure, and you then respond with yes, there is a translation of language that takes place that you may not be aware of.
Saying yes you have a family history of high blood pressure, translates to; Yes my mother and father had high blood pressure, and I LIVE the EXACT same way as they did.
The family history part of this hypertension equation has way more to do with the family dynamics of environment and lifestyle. Everything from the things your family ate, drank and smoked, all the way to their stress levels, their living conditions, level of happiness and fulfillment and of course their economic and financial stressors.
When you say high blood pressure runs in your family, you are saying that you were exposed to all of the factors listed above and that you are more likely to experience them as well, which is likely to walk you down the road of hypertension. Afterall, with so much stress going on in life, who has the time to think about health? That is the translation.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE DOES NOT RUN IN YOUR FAMILY, BUT UNHEALTHY HABITS AND LIFESTYLES DO.
None of those things listed above are guaranteed to be experienced by you, but you make your mind more susceptible to the idea, every time you claim it. Stop Claiming something that is not yours; We don't have to be sick!
Always focus intensely on the things within your control, doing anything else will make you feel hopeless, anxious, depressed and eventually drive you crazy.