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Southern Diet Is the Culprit Behind Hypertension Among African-Americans, Health Experts Claim

According to the health experts, there’s a huge discrepancy when it comes to the high blood pressure rates between Americans and African-Americans. The scientists believed the latter population was more prone to high blood pressure due to their Southern food diet.

The Claim

According to the University of Alabama in Birmingham researchers, most southern cuisine relies heavily on fried foods, processed meats, egg and egg dishes, high-fat dairy foods, bread, and sugar-sweetened beverages which can trigger inflammation and chronic diseases, including high blood pressure or hypertension. The study also revealed how heart disease became one of the biggest culprits in the lowering lifespan of the U.S. citizens. This prompted the scientists to investigate the high-blood pressure rates in African-American and American populations.

The study found that most African-American people tend to eat more Southern cuisine like country ham, cornbread, and sugary drinks which contributed to their rising high blood pressure rates. According to the lead author George Howard, the difference between the prevalences of high blood pressure between the two populations was immense. As they conducted the study on around 6,900 participants across the country aging 45 years and above, around 50% of the American population had hypertension, while around 70% of African-Americans were diagnosed with hypertension.

The research team also drilled down the crucial clinical and social factors that contributed to the hypertension rates namely:

  1. Their Educational Attainment.
  2. Average Annual Income.
  3. Adherence to Southern Diet
  4. BMI.
  5. Sodium to Potassium rates in their Diet.
  6. Exercise Levels
  7. Waist Circumference
  8. Depression
  9. Stress.

The Risks.

Out of all the participants, around 46% of African-American people developed high blood pressure compared to the 33% for Americans. The study also shows how eating the Southern diet increased an individual’s risk of high blood pressure up to 51.6%. Howard reiterates though that there are still other variables involved that contribute to hypertension aside from having the Southern diet.

Howard adds how the combination of unhealthy foods in the diet, along with lack of exercise or a sedentary lifestyle, as well as limitation of access to food containing antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins make the lifestyle less healthy.

The researchers also linked the diet study to cancer, coronary heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and cognitive decline.

Howard says health experts can consider some interventions to increase the access to healthy foods, especially to African-Americans while limiting the consumption of fried foods and processed meats. He encourages the scientific community to work harder, especially since the follow-up tests they’d conducted in the study weren’t as good as they hoped. According to him, only around 50% of the participants returned to conduct follow-up tests. One-fifth of the participants, unfortunately, died due to hypertension and other chronic illnesses. Meanwhile, 30% of the participants withdrew.

The Lifestyle Approach

An independently qualified dietician Kristen Kizer told Newsweek she was struck by how the diet was more important in basing their hypertension than other important factors. According to her, the Southern diet already existed since the 1990s when the original Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study came out.

The DASH diet promotes high consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat, none of which are rich in a Southern Diet. She adds the researchers should also follow other influences or factors that affect the participants’ dietary habits to modify their diet within their comfort and motivate them to pursue an active lifestyle.

According to Kizer, an individual’s diet is very cultural and personal. It is often impacted by an individual’s preference, cost, convenience, availability of foods, nostalgia, as well as the emotions associated with their dietary habits.

Kizer advises the public to stick to a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat dairy products (e.g. milk, cheese, yogurt, organic soy beverages) and a variety of lean meat like seafoods, eggs, beans, seed, and nuts to fill your body with healthy foods. You can also use plant-based oils like canola or olive oil to prepare your food. Lastly, she advises everyone to limit their salt intake by avoiding processed foods.

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