Research on Hypertension in African Americans

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major health issue in the United States. Hypertension can lead to increased risk for stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases (Reeves et al., 2020). African Americans are disproportionately affected by hypertension and have the highest prevalence of this condition among all ethnic groups in the United States (Valdez et al., 2019). Hypertension affects approximately 40% of all individuals over age 20 in this population (CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION [CDC], 2020). In order to address these disparities it is important to understand why African Americans are more prone to developing hypertension.

A significant factor contributing to higher rates of hypertension among African Americans is social determinants of health such as poverty, limited access to care, lack of education about healthy lifestyles, and dietary habits that contribute to obesity and diet-related illnesses (Reeves et al., 2020). These factors are indicative of “structural racism” which refers to “the implicit policies and practices that occur within institutions resulting from existing power structures” (Liguori & Dutta-Bergman, 2018 p. 181) Such inequalities create an environment where people who experience discrimination are more likely than those who do not experience discrimination be exposed to unhealthy environments leading them at greater risk for chronic conditions such as hypertension.

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The role of genetics also plays a role in increasing the likelihood that an individual will develop hypertension. Although much research has been devoted towards understanding genetic factors associated with hypertensive diseases across many different ethnic backgrounds, little attention has been given specifically on defining potential genes involved with the development or control of hypertension amongst African American populations(Charmeli et al., 2017). This lack of research leaves us uncertain as how much weight should be placed into biological versus environmental influences on this population’s risk for hypertension long term effects remain unknown. However what is known is that despite current progress in medical technology it appears genetics may play a bigger role then initially thought when examining biomarkers associated with HTN It will require further study into markers related with HTN before any conclusions can be drawn from genetic differences between populations .

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