In February, Barnabas Health recognizes Black History Month and encourages its communities to take steps to prevent high blood pressure – a condition impacting more than 40 percent of non-Hispanic African Americans.

Monmouth/Ocean Counties, NJ -- High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common problem in the United States. It's even more common in African Americans than among other ethnic groups, often developing earlier in life and becoming more severe.

Researchers have discovered that there may be a gene that makes African Americans more sensitive to salt which increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. Individuals who possess the gene may experience an increase in blood pressure by as much as five millimeters of mercury with as little as a half a teaspoon of salt. Greater percentages of people with diabetes and obesity may also contribute to increased rates of high blood pressure among African Americans.

While we can’t always fight genetics, there are lifestyle changes we can adopt to help lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension. The Barnabas Health Heart Centers suggest the following:

·         Do not smoke or quit smoking

·         Keep yourself at a healthy weight, or a body mass index below 25

·         Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days

·         Buy low-salt or salt-free foods, and use little or no table salt

·         Eat 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of different colored vegetables a day

·         Eat fewer foods from animals to avoid saturated fat

·         Use only nonfat or low-fat dairy products

·         Drink fewer sugary drinks

·         Limit how much alcohol you drink (no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women)

Because high blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms, it is important to get your blood pressure checked each time you visit your physician.

For a referral to a Barnabas Health cardiologist or primary care physician, call 888-724-7123.

*Source: American Heart Association

About Barnabas Health Heart Centers – Life is better heart healthy

From our local cardiologists to our world-class transplant, valve and surgical programs, Barnabas Health has built New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive cardiac care network. But we also offer prevention and wellness programs designed to strengthen and protect those with healthy hearts. All with the hope that they’ll never need our extraordinary care in the first place. For more information about the Barnabas Health Heart Centers, visit barnabashealth.org/hearthealthy.

The southern region hospitals of Barnabas Health – Community Medical Center in Toms River, Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch and Monmouth Medical Center, Southern Campus in Lakewood – have joined the national HeartCaring® network of providers committed to improving the health of our communities through cardiovascular risk factor awareness, screening, early detection and treatment

Powered by the Spirit Group, HeartCaring® is national designation for a select number of U.S. hospitals and clinicians that signifies excellence in gender-sensitive cardiovascular care. It serves as a strategy to  coordinate resources for effective community outreach, deploy evidence-based physician and staff education, and  showcase Barnabas Health’s excellence in cardiac care.