High Blood Pressure and Ethnic Groups

As early as 1932, researchers noted a difference in blood pressures between whites and blacks of African American descent living in New Orleans. Blood pressures among 6,000 black males were 7 mm Hg higher than among a group of 8,000 white males.

The research showed that blacks were twice as likely to develop high blood pressure than if one was a white. Blacks were found to develop serious complications from the disease or to die of a stroke or heart attack related to their blood pressure. Less access to medical care is considered to be one of the reasons, but the difference between blacks and whites is primarily genetic. But it is also noteworthy that with proper medical care strokes and heart attacks from high blood pressure can be reduced equally in blacks as in whites.

The first drug of choice if one is black, and the one that’s often the most effective, is a diuretic. However, because blacks tend to have more severe high blood pressure they may need another medication in addition to a diuretic to control their condition.

Blacks are not the only ethnic group at increased risk; for high blood pressure among some populations of American Indians is higher than in whites. People of Hispanic background have about the same incidence of high blood pressure as whites. In some areas, the incidence is slightly lower than in whites.

High Blood Pressure in Children

Infants are born with a low blood pressure that increases quickly during the first month of life. During childhood, their blood pressure continues to slowly increase until they reach their teens, when it reaches a level similar to that in an adult.

Blood pressure generally isn’t measured in infants and young children because getting an accurate measurement is difficult. However, once your child reaches age 3, the doctor checks his or her blood pressure at every visit.

A different method is used to determine high blood pressure in children than adults. The child’s blood pressure is rated on a percentile basis, taking into account his or her age and height. At any age, taller children tend to have higher blood pressure than children who are short or of average height. A blood pressure reading above the 95th percentile is considered high.