High blood pressure — the leading risk factor for heart attack and stroke — continues to disproportionately affect communities of color. Addressing this health inequity is especially important right now, as people with hypertension and serious heart conditions are at an increased risk for more severe outcomes if they acquire COVID-19.
According to the American Heart Association, the prevalence of high blood pressure among Black adults in the U.S. is among the highest in the world, with the prevalence of high blood pressure in Black women nearly 40 percent higher than white women in the U.S.
While many long-standing inequities and stressors produced by structural racism have created and continue to exacerbate these conditions, there are steps individuals can take to help improve their blood pressure right now. The New Year is a great opportunity to prioritize self-care and get started.
This is why the American Medical Association (AMA), the AMA Foundation, Association of Black Cardiologists, American Heart Association, Minority Health Institute and National Medical Association have launched the “Release the Pressure” campaign with ESSENCE. The campaign is aimed at partnering with Black women to help improve their heart health and be part of a movement for healthy blood pressure, with a shared goal of engaging more than 300,000 Black women.
As part of the campaign, the AMA and this coalition of national health care organizations encourages Black women to take a pledge to be part of a healthy blood pressure movement at ReleaseThePressure.org. Specifically, the pledge encourages Black women to take the following four steps:
1. Set a blood pressure goal: Schedule an appointment with your physician or other health care professional, in-person or virtually, to work in partnership on understanding your blood pressure numbers and knowing your goal for optimal blood pressure.
2. Monitor blood pressure numbers at home: Once you learn your blood pressure numbers, take and keep regular records of your blood pressure.
3. Activate a personalized wellness plan: Identify specific goals for fitness and heart healthy eating and connect virtually with family members and friends from your “squad” to keep you on track.
4. Make regular check-ins with your “squad”: Lean on your family and friends to help you achieve your heart health goals by checking in with them on a daily basis.
“Preventive care is vital to breaking the devastating impact of high blood pressure within the Black community, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” says Patrice A. Harris, M.D., MA, president of the AMA. “At the individual and family level, it starts with understanding blood pressure numbers and taking action to manage blood pressure.”