High Blood Pressure Disproportionately Affects Black Males. Learn How to Be Proactive



By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder


I was deeply saddened to hear about the recent passing of John Singleton. The “Boyz N the Hood” director died of a stroke at just 51-years-old.

Reportedly, he had a history of hypertension (high blood pressure).

One of the major risk factors for a stroke is high blood pressure. Hypertension is also a reason why several million Americans have heart disease.

Although hypertension affects people of all backgrounds, black males (like John Singleton) comprise the largest group of victims.

“Disease burden and growing disparities among certain populations are characteristics of the heart disease and stroke epidemic. One of the populations greatly affected by this epidemic is African American men. African American men suffer disproportionately from high blood pressure, a known risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To give you even more perspective:

  • The prevalence of high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) in African-Americans in the United States is among the highest in the world. More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic African-American men and women have high blood pressure. For African-Americans, high blood pressure also develops earlier in life and is usually more severe,” (American Heart Association).
  • “Nearly 44% of African American men and 48% of African American women have some form of cardiovascular disease that includes heart disease and stroke,” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • “African-American men are at greater risk of having a stroke than any other group of men in the United States. Compared to white men, they are twice as likely to have a stroke, have strokes at younger ages, die from stroke, or have stroke-related disability that affects their daily activities,” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Why are black men at such a high risk?

Well, there are a variety of factors. As we have discussed before, the black community in America has high rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension due to diet. Macaroni and cheese and fried chicken are extremely delicious, but they are not heart healthy foods when eaten on a regular basis.  

But it goes deeper than diet.

For example, the CDC reports that several “studies found an association between racism and higher blood pressure levels in African American men. Perceived racism contributes to stress and low self esteem, which can ultimately negatively affect blood pressure levels. The relationship between exposure to discrimination and blood pressure levels among African American men differs based on socioeconomic status.”

Moreover, it appears that African Americans use less medical care services and medications when compared to whites. This “has been found to be related to mistrust of the medical system. Mistrust can negatively affect communication between providers and African American patients, as can a lack of cultural competence among health care providers.”

How can you be proactive about hypertension?

Hypertension is often called “the silent killer,” because you may have no apparent symptoms at first. John Singleton’s family is now encouraging all black men to get their blood pressure checked.

The good news is that you can conveniently monitor your blood pressure at home. For instructions and guidelines on how to properly do this, check out this pH Labs blog. For a simple chart on blood pressure readings that will tell you if your blood pressure is normal or too high, read here.

See your barber?

Hear me out. Imagine if you could conveniently get your blood pressure checked at a place you regularly visit...like the barber shop! One report discusses how in some communities initiatives have been made to offer people blood pressure testing at common gathering spots, including churches and barber shops.

But the question was did this method work? The report discusses a study in Dallas, Texas in which 17 barber shops (with a primarily black clientele) were assigned to be a “control” shop or “intervention” shop. The control shops remained business as usual except they gave clients a baseline screening and a standard American Heart Association pamphlet about high blood pressure in African Americans. The intervention shops offered regular free blood pressure screenings for their clients and encouraged those with hypertension to see a doctor.

“In the intervention shops, barbers began with a 10-week baseline BP screening. Over the next 10 months, barbers offered clients BP checks with every haircut, and urged those with high blood pressure to see a doctor. They also gave clients referral cards to give their doctors with their latest BP readings. As extra motivation, the barbers were trained to tell clients ‘model’ stories about other patrons who benefited from getting their hypertension under control,” according to the report.

Clients were also offered free haircuts if they saw a doctor.

Now this is what being proactive is all about, making it a community effort. Just because you are not a doctor, does not mean that you cannot help or encourage someone to get healthy or suggest they get certain medical testing.

The results of the study revealed that both the control and intervention shops were helpful, however, “the rate of success in the intervention group was higher. Among the 695 clients with hypertension in the intervention group, the percentage who had brought their BP down to a safe level increased from 34% at baseline to nearly 54% 10 months later. Among the 602 men with high BP in the control group, that rate went from 40% to 51%. In the intervention group, 20% of hypertensive clients were on BP medication, compared with 10% of the control group.”

This is pretty powerful and just goes to show you that we can all be proactive and help each other. So it helps to talk to your local barber shop, church or even book club about offering blood pressure screenings.

Nutrition. Nutrition. Nutrition!

Eating healthily is important when it comes to preventing hypertension. One of the reasons why millions of Americans currently have high blood pressure is a diet rich in unhealthy fats, sugar and processed foods. The good news is diet is something you can improve. Along with eating junk foods and sweets in moderation, make sure you are getting an adequate intake of these 7 nutrients that may help fight hypertension. And as always, take a comprehensive nutrient test to ensure you have the right balance of nutrients, like magnesium and potassium. These are examples of nutrients which directly affect your ability to maintain a healthy blood pressure.

What’s also very noteworthy is that this 2015 study found evidence which suggested that taking popular hypertension drugs was associated with worse heart health in blacks than it did in whites. So this means black people may especially need to be proactive about diet and exercise in order to prevent hypertension (and not depend on medication).

(To be clear, if you are currently taking medications for hypertension do not stop taking these medications without the permission of a competent healthcare professional).

Fighting hypertension is something that the pH Labs team is extremely passionate about. You can read all of our blogs on hypertension here. I am confident you will find a wealth of information including how to live your healthiest life.


Let’s fight hypertension together!


Enjoy your healthy life!


The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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