African Americans and High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure normally rises and falls. When the blood pressure is elevated over time, it is called high blood pressure. Any person can develop hypertension, which is the technical term for high blood pressure. Blood pressure measures the force of the blood flowing through your blood vessels when the heart contracts to pump blood and when the heart rests between beats. In people with hypertension, the tension within the blood vessels is greater, which makes the heart work harder.

Hypertension has been called the “silent killer” because it can cause damage to many body organs without any symptoms. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause a heart attack, strokekidney failure, vision problems and even death.


African Americans and people of African descent in the United Kingdom have among the highest rates of hypertension of any race or ethnic type in the world.1

35% of African Americans have hypertension, which accounts for 20% of the African American deaths in the United States – twice the percentage of deaths among whites from hypertension.1

Compared with whites, hypertension develops earlier in life and average blood pressures are much higher in African Americans.2

African Americans with high blood pressure have an 80% higher chance of dying from a stroke than in the general population.2

African Americans with high blood pressure have a 20% higher chance of developing heart disease than in the general population.2

African Americans with high blood pressure have a 4 times greater risk of developing hypertension related end stage kidney disease than the general population.2

1 CDC, National Center for Health Statistics.

2 “The Puzzle of Hypertension in African Americans,” Scientific American.