September 15th 2003
Uncontrolled hypertension is a major health problem among African Americans. Obesity, high sodium and low potassium intake, and inadequate physical activity have been identified as barriers to cardiovascular health in many African Americans. Thus, it is important to educate and counsel patients about lifestyle modifications, such as a low-sodium, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)-type diet; regular aerobic exercise; moderation of alcohol consumption; and smoking cessation. All classes of antihypertensive agents lower blood pressure in African Americans, although some may be less effective than others when used as monotherapy. Most patients require combination therapy. Both patient barriers (such as lack of access to health care and perceptions about health and the need for therapy) and physician barriers (such as poor communication styles) contribute to the low rates of hypertension control in African Americans. Patient-centered communication strategies can help overcome these barriers and can improve compliance and outcomes. Such strategies include the use of open-ended questions, active listening, patient education and counseling, and encouragement of patient participation in decision making.