I descend from a large African American family, a family whose health history I have been oblivious to up until I was given this assignment. My family has a long health history of diabetes, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and high blood pressure. High blood pressure appears to be the most common and reoccurring illness in my family. According to my Great- Aunt, my family doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to the status of our health. Most of these illnesses go completely unnoticed. I member of this family I can vouch for everyone and say we procrastinate very long before we actual have a doctors visit.
Family Health Truths
Truth is in most cases by the time members of my family actually have a visit to the doctor its practically too late. In the past year alone my family has suffered the loss of 3 members due to illnesses caused by high blood pressure. My Aunt Rose suffered from high blood pressure and developed congestive heart failure and passed away at the age of 49. My first cousin Jasmine had a heart attack at the age of 27. Her heart attack was the result of years of untreated high blood pressure. My Great-Aunt Doris had a life taking stroke because she had atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is fatty build up in the arteries, an illness that is the result of high blood pressure.
While conducting research on my family I came to the conclusion that high blood pressure is more common in the women I my family although it does effect a portion of the men as well. I realize this is because the women in my family have always been seen as strong and independent, so they tend to try to handle things on their own. I also believe these things go ignored because the women don’t want to feel power stricken because their pride is the one thing as African American women that they value the most. Knowing now what I didn’t know before about my family’s health history with this illness I plan to stress the thought of not letting it go unassessed.
My mother’s name is Audrean Ward. She too suffers from high blood pressure. My mom is 5’3 and weighs 145 pounds. She is 46 years of age and has 4 children. She is also a single parent who has been working since the age of 16. She is a chronic cigarette smoker who has been actively smoking for 20+ years. My mom is a junk food eater and doesn’t regularly manage her diet. My mother does receive treatment for her high blood pressure and has made plans to find other ways of managing her illness.
“People with a family history of high blood pressure share common environments and other potential factors that increase their risk.” (Center for Disease Control, 2014) Given my family’s history I too am at risk for high blood pressure. I plan to do whatever it takes to decrease the chances of getting it.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. High blood pressure (HBP) means the pressure in the arteries is higher than it should be. Another name for high blood pressure is hypertension. According to the American Heart Association (2014), “Blood Pressure measures the force pushes outwards on your arterial walls.” The organs in your body need oxygen for survival. Oxygen is carried through the heart by blood. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through a network of tube shaped arteries and veins, also known as blood vessels and capillaries. The pressure -blood pressure- is the result of two forces. The first force occurs as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries that are part of the circulatory system. The second force is created as the heart rest between heart beats. These two forces are each represented by the number in a blood pressure reading. The top number is called the systolic and the bottom is the diastolic. High blood pressure is a pressure of 140 systolic or higher and/or 90 diastolic or higher that stays high over time.
What causes high blood pressure?
Researchers for WebMD (2015) found that “The exact causes of high blood pressure are not known, but several factors and conditions may play a role in its development.”
These conditions include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity
- Too much salt in diet
- Too much alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)
- Old Age
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Adrenal and thyroid disorders
- Sleep apnea
How does high blood pressure harm the body?
High blood pressure can quietly damage your body for years before symptoms develop. If left uncontrolled it can cause artery damage, aneurysm, coronary artery disease, enlarged left heart, heart failure, kidney failure, kidney artery aneurysm, atherosclerosis, and kidney scarring (glomerulosclerosis). High blood pressure can also cause damage to your brain is left untreated.
A few problems can include, transient ischemic attack, stroke, mild cognitive impairment, and even dementia.
How to treat high blood pressure?
There are a host of medications used to treat high blood pressure each with pros and cons. The most effective types medicines are Beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, Calcium channel blockers, and antihypertensive drugs. High blood pressure can also be controlled without medication. Loosing extra pounds, exercising regularly, eat a healthier diet, reduce sodium in diet, limit the amount of consumed alcohol, quit smoking, cut back on caffeine, reduce your stress, monitor your blood pressure at home, and see your doctor regularly.
How to prevent high blood pressure?
Many of the non-medical ways of reducing high blood pressure are also essential in prevention. Making healthy life style choices is the best way to prevent high blood pressure. Health expert Krisha McCoy (2016) says, “The top six ways to prevent high blood pressure are maintaining a healthy weight, keeping a steady diet, low sodium eating, regular physical activity, limiting alcohol intake and monitoring your blood pressure.” Each of these have been tested and proven affective.
High blood pressure is seen all too often in my family. It is too common to keep letting it sit in the backburner. Getting a handle on high blood pressure will however take time, awareness and consistency on the part of everyone. Acknowledging that high blood pressure is a major problem is a step toward decreasing the harsh outcomes that are produced by ignoring high blood pressure. Making healthy life choices is guaranteed affective and should be stressed in order to better my family’s health and others around the world.