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(Reuters Health) - Black Americans may be able to lower their risk for high blood pressure by following the seven heart-healthy steps laid out by the American Heart Association (AHA), according to a new study.
The AHA's "Life's Simple 7" program focuses on seven goals: a healthy weight, a healthy diet, healthy physical activity levels, quitting smoking, and good control of blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.
The risk of high blood pressure decreased as the number of heart healthy habits followed by black Americans increased, researchers found.
Starting in childhood, black Americans are at higher risk of high blood pressure than white Americans, the researchers write in the journal Hypertension. But while maintaining a healthy blood pressure is key to reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease, not many studies have focused specifically on ways to improve blood pressure control among black Americans.
"This is such a high risk in this population, and it hasn’t been studied that much," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, an AHA spokesperson who wasn't involved in the new research.
For the new study, the researchers studied 1,878 black Americans enrolled in the Jackson Heart Study in Mississippi. All of the participants were free of high blood pressure when they entered the study between 2000 and 2004, and they all received at least one follow-up exam.
Over about eight years of follow-up, about half of the participants were diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Overall, at the start of the study, about 57 percent of participants had two or three risk factors under control. Another 36 percent had control of four to six factors. About 7 percent had just one risk factor, or none at all, under control. No one had control of all seven.
During the study, the risk of developing high blood pressure was roughly 81 percent for people with control over one or no risk factors at the start of the study, 67 percent with two risk factors under control at the start, 55 percent in people with three risk factors under control, 33 percent when people had four risk factors under control, 26 percent when five factors were controlled, and 11 percent with six factors under control.
The difference between people with control of one or no risk factors and those with control of six represents a 90 percent decreased risk of high blood pressure.
"In looking at these healthy behaviors and factors, we see that with implementation of these the risk of hypertension and outcomes goes down significantly," said Steinbaum, of Northwell Health's Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. "I think it’s a pretty powerful statement."
The researchers conclude that Life's Simple 7 may be a practical way to monitor the risk of high blood pressure among black Americans.
For people looking to follow the AHA's Life's Simple 7, Steinbaum said it's about baby steps like cutting out sugary drinks such as juices. Removing those drinks leads to weight loss which may increase physical activity, she said.
"One small change can really set off a whole pattern of behavior that can change your life," she told Reuters Health.
John Booth, the study's lead author from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
SOURCE: bit.ly/2tO6zKj Hypertension, online June 26, 2017.