Essential Pittsburgh
4:29 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Hypertension High Among Allegheny County African Americans, But It's Treatable

A blood pressure monitoring machine commonly found in drugstores, where you can monitor your pressure for free.
A blood pressure monitoring machine commonly found in drugstores, where you can monitor your pressure for free.
Credit Meddy Garnet / Flickr

Hypertension, known as the “Silent Killer,” is more prevalent in Allegheny County African Americans than any other group. Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension has taken the lives of over 50,000 people in the last year.

Dr. Indu Poornima is a cardiologist at Allegheny General Hospital and conducts research with high blood pressure patients in Allegheny County. She says the increased prevalence of obesity and stressors, along with access to health care and genetic predispositions, are all possible factors that cause hypertension.

Changing eating and lifestyle habits are the easiest ways to control hypertension. An increased consumption of processed foods that contain high levels of sodium can raise the risk for high blood pressure. Dr. Poornima teaches her patients to read food labels and look for cholesterol and trans fat content to determine the healthiest foods. So far she has not found a clear reason for the higher African American death rates.

“Is it access to health care or is it social determinants? Or is it a combination?” She asks. As the study continues, she has found a huge gap in treatment for hypertension patients.

“Among the 60% of individuals with hypertension, 40% are being treated, but less than 10% are actually at goal of treatment.” Even if the signs of high blood pressure deplete, Poornima suggests that patients stay consistent with medication and doctor visits. She says hypertension is a treatable disease and should be controlled before it leads to something like heart disease and death.