The vast majority of those who were aware were taking some sort of medication – often two medications – to treat high blood pressure, but only about one third were successfully controlling the disease. “People who knew they had hypertension, about 88 percent were initiated on some sort of treatment. However the control of their blood pressure was poor,” Chow said. When researchers looked at the results by country, they found that in high-income and upper-middle-income countries, around 50 percent of people with high blood pressure were aware of their condition and around 47 percent were getting treatment. In comparison, in lower-income and lower-middle-income countries around 42 percent of people with hypertension were aware of it and about 34 percent were treated. In poorer countries, awareness, treatment and control of high blood pressure were better in urban areas compared to rural ones, and among better educated people, the researchers note.
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‘Hypervigilance’ about race linked to blood pressure
The findings suggest that heightened race consciousness could at least in part account for the disproportionately high rate of hypertension in black Americans, the highest prevalence of any group in the United States and one of the highest rates in the world. “A preoccupation with race among blacks leads to hypervigilance, a heightened awareness of their stigmatized status in society, and a feeling that they need to watch their backs constantly,” says Lisa A. Cooper, a professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and senior author of the study described online in the American Journal of Hypertension. “African-Americans have higher blood pressure, and it has been difficult to explain why this is true. It doesn’t appear to be genetic, and while things like diet, exercise, and reduced access to health care may contribute, we think that a tense social environment, the sense of being treated differently because of your race, could also possibly explain some of what’s behind the higher rates.” Cooper says the issue of such hypervigilance and race consciousness has drawn more public attention in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in Florida. Her own African-American son, she says, is very aware of his surroundings. “It’s stressful for him to walk around thinking at any time someone might think he’s doing something wrong just because of his race,” she says.
For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit http://hub.jhu.edu/gazette/2013/september/news-race-linked-to-blood-pressure