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High Blood Pressure a Top Health Concern in Dallas County

Mar 20, 2023Mar 20, 2023

Hypertension, high blood pressure is, unfortunately, a chronic condition that can lead to heart disease, stroke and other health ailments that can cause death. Hypertension is a problem for many Americans, especially those in communities of color.

In April, Parkland Health and Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) presented the results of the 2022 Dallas County Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA).

Data showed Black and Hispanic communities in the community have the highest rates of heart disease-related death.

Camille Myers, a Dallas native who is also the Parkland Health Foundation Donor Relations Program Manager knows all too well the pain associated with hypertension.

"Last year in December, my dad who has also struggled with hypertension, and some other health issues, he suffered a stroke right after the holidays," said Myers who is helping her father who became partially paralyzed.

In the past 18 years, she has seen loved ones die due to the chronic illness.

"My grandmother, maternal grandmother who raised me, suffered a stroke on Christmas Day, just out of the blue, but she has struggled with hypertension for years," explained Myers who said her grandmother died three weeks later in 2005.

Ten years later, she would lose another loved one.

"My favorite uncle, he passed away. He had struggled with hypertension for years, in and out of the hospital and then he passed away from a heart attack," explained Myers.

Myers later learned, that she too has high blood pressure.

"I thought I was too young to have hypertension," said Myers who is 45.

She has since taken a whole new perspective on health and how food can play a role.

"I grew up in a family that loves fried food, and we love to taste our food. Even with recipes being passed on from generation to generation, we're going to drown it in butter, we're going to sprinkle the salt on top and now it's time to say, 'Okay, let's look at what this food is really doing to our bodies," said Myers.

She believes there is a disconnect between people's high blood pressure numbers and how it's impacting their bodies. Myers said she sees people talk about it as if it's a normal issue but wants to bring awareness to a major health concern that is manageable and can be preventable.

"I want to just really challenge everyone to go a step further to say don't just know your numbers, know what those numbers mean. Know what's happening inside your body. When you check your blood pressure and you get a reading that's high, that's elevated, that you understand that that is not just something to take lightly. Like there's actually something that's happening inside your body that needs to be addressed," explained Myers.

Ann Marie Navar, MD, Cardiologist at Parkland Health and Associate Professor of Cardiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center echoed the findings in the 2022 Dallas County Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA).

"Although hypertension affects everybody across the United States, regardless of income ethnicity or race, we do know that Black and African American people in the United States are disproportionately affected by hypertension," said Navar.

She said disparities are believed to be attributed to lower rates of detection and control. That could be tied to other issues based on transportation, access to health care, food deserts and socioeconomics.

In terms of managing blood pressure, Navar said "It's the easiest, cheapest risk factor for us to treat and it makes a huge difference for all sorts of health outcomes."

"We can treat your blood pressure for less than $10 a month, with just cash out-of-pocket medication, there's no reason why we should have such high levels of uncontrolled blood pressure in the United States, we need better awareness," explained Navar.

Myers agrees and said that's why she's become an advocate for educating friends, family and those who will listen.

"Even trying to encourage families to try some alternatives you know, try a low sodium diet, you know, switch out some pork for some turkey or you know, switch out your white bread and white potatoes for wheat bread and just try to still have a great meal and a tasty meal, but just trying a healthier option for that," said Myers who also emphasized working out and good sleeping habits.

Because of her job, she's using her first-hand experience to also relay a message to those who also have the ability to help impact change.

"What we're doing is just really focusing on getting the message out to our donors and our supporters, letting them know and showing them like, 'Hey, this is what's happening in the community. We need your help to come in, give us the leads, the materials, equipment, the staff, whatever it will take to make sure we're out in the community and helping our members live healthier lives," said Myers.