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  • Harlem Word: Dr. Gbenga Ogedegbe tells us what every African American should know about high blood pressure

    Editor June 13th, 2024

    Gbenga Ogedegbe, MD, MPH, MS, is an Associate Professor of Medicine, at the NYU School of Medicine. He is researching ways to help lower the rates of heart disease among African Americans. In this article he discusses what every African American should know about high blood pressure (hypertension).

    Q: What are the three top things that African Americans should know about high blood pressure?

    A: I think the first thing everyone needs to understand is that just because you are unaware of your high blood pressure (hypertension), does not mean that you are healthy.  High blood pressure is real and here to stay.  High blood pressure is not just a Black man's problem; it is a Black woman's problem too, so everyone should get their blood pressure checked regularly.

    The second thing that African Americans should know is that taking medicine is very helpful in lowering your blood pressure.  The whole fear and concern that blood pressure medications have side effects and that the medications can lead to worse health problems is just not true for the most part. The benefits from taking blood pressure medications outweigh the side effects they may have. These medications save more lives, prevent strokes, kidney failure, and many other illnesses in those who take them regularly.

    GetHealthyHarlem.org wants to remind you that some medications do have serious side effects and you should always talk to your health care provider or pharmacist to find the medication that works best for you.

    The third thing is that at the end of the day if we can lower our blood pressure, we can prevent a whole host of other diseases such as heart failure, stroke, and diabetes.  Preventing these diseases will make us live longer, healthier lives.

    Q: What are some things that people with high blood pressure can do in addition to taking their blood pressure medication?

    A:  They should be physically active and be eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.  A lot of people think that if they are taking their medication then they don't have to worry about losing weight, exercising, or watching their diets.  However, out of all the patients that I see who have high blood pressure (hypertension), 60% of them are obese and 25% are overweight.  Only a very small number are neither overweight nor obese.  This is probably due to the fact that so few of them are physically active, which is worrisome.

    Most of our patients with high blood pressure (hypertension) are walking less than one block per day; it is like they have just been sitting around all day!  From my experience, many people with high blood pressure are not physically active enough.  Therefore, being more active is important in lowering your high blood pressure. 

    Taking your medication along with maintaining a low-salt diet and doing some exercise, even if it's just walking, are important ways that you can lower your high blood pressure (hypertension).

    Q: What advice do you have for the people who cannot afford medication for their high blood pressure?

    A: In NYC you can find free healthcare through the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) network (which includes Harlem Hospital and Metropolitan Medical Center, among others).  If you do not have insurance, you will not be turned away from receiving care.  HHC will also help you buy low-cost medications at places like Wal-MartTM.  At HHC you pay only about two dollars for your prescriptions!  Uninsured people or people on a tight budget should really take advantage of this!  Check out their website for more information about the HHC network.

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