Bethesda, Md. (August 13, 2002) -- Hypertension is a common disorder with potentially devastating complications that disproportionately affects the black community. It accounts for approximately 25 percent of all cases of end stage renal disease in the African-American population. Since patients have no symptoms, it frequently goes undiagnosed. Excellent treatments are available; however, given that it is a chronic disease and that patients are asymptomatic, keeping patients on treatment can be difficult. The African American Study of Kidney Disease and Hypertension (AASK) has shown that hypertension can be successfully treated in this population, leading to the reduction in the rate of deterioration of kidney function, according to Denyse Thornley-Brown, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a co-principal investigator of the AASK trial.
Tied To Slave Ship Transport?
There is an intriguing hypothesis enumerated by Clarence E. Grim, M.D., from the Medical College of Wisconsin, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, which may help to explain the high incidence of hypertension in African Americans. When Africans were transported to the Americas, they were sailed across an equatorial ocean. They were not fed, and they were given little or no water. Consequently, a high percentage of individuals died in transit. This could be thought of an unnatural selection process. As a direct result of this occurrence, the survivors are thought to be individuals that could retain salt and water most efficiently. To put it another way, the people that survived needed very little salt. Circumstances with respect to salt availability have changed. Today salt is ubiquitous, and thus, the overexposure to salt by individuals with a high salt retentive capacity may be one reason for the elevated blood pressures observed today in the descendants of these original survivors.
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American Physiological Society
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