High blood pressure before age 35 can triple the risk of stroke in black women

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Black women under the age of 35 with high blood pressure are three times more likely to have a stroke compared to their white counterparts.

The risk is double for black women diagnosed with high blood pressure between the ages of 35 and 45.

This comes from new research shared by the American Heart Association.

Experts say these findings should change public health interventions around high blood pressure screenings and treatments.

Tamara Markey survived a stroke in 2019 at the age of 47. Now 51, she wants black women with high blood pressure to take the risks seriously.

“Think of the future you,” Markey said. “You might think, ‘I’m young. I’m doing this. I will do that.’ Are you real? Are you going to your doctor? Are you being monitored? Do you make sure your blood pressure is normal? Do you get some form of exercise? Believe me. All that food and what you ingest takes up a huge factor in your life.

Researchers followed 59,000 black women for 23 years before publishing the summary.

“It can feel like defeat, perhaps if you initially estimate three times the risk,” says Dr. Ann Jones, a stroke neurologist from IU Health. “But I think this is a real opportunity to improve care for people, and to know that we can do better and we can change the course of outcomes.”

Many of the causes of high blood pressure can be systemic in some patients. Examples of this include a lack of access to healthcare, healthy food and education.

Jones said one of the best ways to combat high blood pressure is to know you have it.

“Blood pressure, especially if you don’t have symptoms, so you don’t know if there’s a problem if you don’t get it checked,” Jones said. “And so it just emphasizes how important it is to get people to the doctor and getting those annual checkups. And also play an active role in our healthcare.”

Markey’s stroke cost her some of her vision and the use of her left hand. As a result, she can no longer work. She said she wishes she took her health seriously sooner.

Now she quit smoking and underwent weight-loss surgery to regain control.

“Not to lose weight, but to get off all medications and for a better and healthier image,” said Markey. “So I did that and lost 80 pounds, but I stopped taking (most of) the pills. Those twenty (pills) became the five.”

Other causes of stroke include diabetes, poor diet and lack of exercise.

IU Health launched iHEART, which stands for Indianapolis Health Equity, Access, outReach and Treatment Program. The program aims to help close the gap of health inequality.