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Health & Fitness

High Blood Pressure

If you're an adult and your blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or above, you have hypertension and are at higher risk for heart disease, stroke and other medical problems. See a doctor and learn how to manage your blood pressure and how often to have it checked. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so if you haven't had it checked in a while, make an appointment now. One in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure. About 30 percent of them don't know they have it. 

Factors that contribute to high blood pressure

Medical science doesn't understand why most cases of high blood pressure occur, so it's hard to say how to prevent it. However, we do know that several factors may contribute to high blood pressure and raise your risk for heart attack and stroke.

Controllable risk factors

  • Obesity — People with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
  • Eating too much salt — A high sodium intake increases blood pressure in some people.
  • Drinking too much alcohol — Heavy and regular use of alcohol can increase blood pressure dramatically.
  • Lack of physical activity — An inactive lifestyle makes it easier to become overweight and increases the chance of high blood pressure.
  • Stress — This is often mentioned as a risk factor, but stress levels are hard to measure, and responses to stress vary from person to person.

Uncontrollable risk factors

  • Race — Blacks develop high blood pressure more often than whites, and it tends to occur earlier and be more severe.
  • Heredity — If your parents or other close blood relatives have high blood pressure, you're more likely to develop it.
  • Age — In general, the older you get, the greater your chance of developing high blood pressure. It occurs most often in people over age 35. Men seem to develop it most often between age 35 and 55. Women are more likely to develop it after menopause

Diabetes: Recognize the Symptoms

Have you been extremely thirsty lately? Have you had the urge to go to the bathroom a lot, especially at night? Are you losing weight without trying? Do you have cuts, wounds or infections that won't heal? Are you experiencing fatigue, increased hunger or blurred vision?

You could have Diabetes.

Here's what you need to know about the disease that affects more than 3 million African-Americans. Diabetes is what happens when your pancreas doesn't make insulin or doesn't use this hormone, which controls blood sugar levels, properly. Many people don't even know they have Diabetes until they develop serious complications such as kidney failure, amputations, blindness, strokes and heart attacks. Blacks are 4 to 6 times more likely to get the disease than whites. Diabetes can run in families. And it is the third leading cause of death in African-Americans.

The good news is that Diabetes, once diagnosed, can often be controlled through simple lifestyle changes. Cut the fat and sugar out of your diet. Learn to control food portions. Exercise regularly. If you're overweight, drop a few pounds. Try to eliminate stress.

African Americans and Bone Marrow Transplants

A bone marrow transplant is considered the only real "cure" for some 60 different illnesses including forms of leukemia and aplastic anemia.

Bone marrow is a substance that manufactures blood components. As in blood transfusions, the donor marrow must be the same type as the recipient's, but marrow typing is much more complicated. About 30 percent of the people who need marrow transplants have a relative, usually a brother or sister, who can donate. The remaining patients depend on finding an unrelated person with similar marrow. The likelihood of finding a match is much higher within a person's own ethnic group.

Fortunately, there are national and international bone marrow registries that record the marrow characteristics of people who have agreed to be registered as potential donors. As of the end of 1997, the National Marrow Donor Program included more than 3 million individuals in its registry.

However, ethnic minorities are severely underrepresented. Only about 200,000 potential donors -- about 6 percent -- are African- Americans. According to the Judie Davis Marrow Donor Recruitment Program in Oakland, this means African-Americans receive transplants from the National Marrow Registry only 3.3 percent of the time, compared to a rate of 85 to 88 percent for Caucasians.

You can help by registering to be a donor or organizing a marrow registration drive in your church, club or community

What is a bone marrow transplant?

A marrow transplant involves extracting bone marrow through a needle in the back of the donor's pelvis, a simple surgical procedure done under anesthetic in a hospital. The donor's marrow replenishes itself within a few weeks.

The donated marrow is transfused directly into the patient's blood sream. Healthy marrow cells travel to bone cavities, where they begin to grow and replace the old marrow.

What if I turn out to be a match?

You would be contacted by the registry to see if you still qualify and still want to be a donor. If so, arrangements would be made to have your marrow collected at a nearby hospital. The patient or the patient's insurance pays the expense.

Anyone between the ages of 18 and 60, in good general health and who is not greatly overweight or at high risk for contracting HIV, may be registered as a potential donor.