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High Blood Pressure in African-Americans

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Do You Have High Blood Pressure? continued...

The bottom number is called your diastolic blood pressure. This number represents the force of blood through your blood vessels in between heartbeats, while your heart is resting.

  • 79 or below is normal diastolic blood pressure.
  • 80-89 is prehypertension.
  • 90 and greater is high blood pressure.

Blood pressure changes throughout the day, depending on your activities. Blood pressure changes over time, as well. Systolic blood pressure tends to rise as you get older. Diastolic blood pressure may decrease as you get older.

If either of your blood pressure readings is consistently above normal, then take action right away. Work with your doctor to develop a plan to treat high blood pressure before damage to your organs occurs.

Treating High Blood Pressure in African-Americans

If you have high blood pressure, consult your doctor to find which combination of treatments works best, given your individual health and lifestyle. Your treatment plan is likely to include the following elements:

  • Follow the DASH eating plan. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet plan includes eating less fat and saturated fat, as well as eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and whole-grain food. Limiting alcohol consumption can also help lower your blood pressure. A dietitian can help you find ways to meet these goals without giving up your favorite foods.
  • Limit salt intake. Because blacks seem more sensitive to salt, it makes sense to watch how much salt you eat. Table salt and sodium used in processed foods are the two sources of sodium in your diet. Consult a dietician to learn how to select and prepare tasty, low-salt meals.
  • Watch your weight. Being overweight increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. Following the DASH eating plan and getting regular exercise can help you lose weight. Ask your doctor to help you determine a goal. Your doctor can also refer you to other health care professionals for assistance in setting up a weight loss plan.
  • Quit smoking. Tobacco smoke can make blood pressure rise. It can also directly damage your heart and blood vessels. Talk with your doctor about ways to quit.
  • Medication. Your doctor may prescribe medication to control your high blood pressure. It's common to take more than one drug to treat the problem. Your doctor may ask you to switch drugs or change the dosage until you find a combination that works best to control high blood pressure with the least side effects for you. Drugs used to treat high blood pressure include:
    Diuretics, which reduce the amount of fluid in your blood by helping your body rid itself of extra salt. This type of blood pressure medication should be used in most cases to treat high blood pressure. 
    Calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors,
    and alpha-blockers help keep your blood vessels from tightening up. Your doctor may want to start with calcium channel blockers by themselves, or in combination with diuretics.
    Beta-blockers prevent your body from making the hormone adrenaline. Adrenaline is a stress hormone. It makes your heart beat harder and faster. It also makes your blood vessels tighten. All of this makes blood pressure higher.

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