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Health Team

Untreated hypertension can lead to major health problems

Posted April 14, 2015

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— Untreated high blood pressure can lead to a chain reaction of health issues. It's a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and kidney failure.

Often, high blood pressure goes undiagnosed until life-threatening symptoms appear.

Zandrel Bradsher has battled her high blood pressure for more than 30 years. She also has a family history of hypertension.

"I got on the blood pressure medicine, and I've been on it ever since," Bradsher said.

The 67-year-old said she's more diligent now about her lifestyle.

"(I) exercise, cut out the salt," she said. "I don't eat a lot of salt, but some things you've got salt already in it."

Bradsher wasn't able to make changes before being diagnosed with kidney disease, but she's working hard to avoid kidney failure, a condition that would force her to undergo kidney dialysis.

Dr. Raven Voora, a nephrologist at UNC Hospitals, says Bradsher's issues are common in African-Americans – about one-third of African-Americans are thought to have hypertension.

Although African-Americans represent about 13 percent of the U.S. population, Voora says they account for about 33 percent of kidney failure patients.

Voora says doctors do a good job of identifying hypertension when patients have access to care.

"If you don't have access to a doctor's office to check your blood pressure to identify that you have an issue with hypertension, then that's where it becomes a major health problem," she said.

Bradsher sees Voora regularly to make sure her medications are working and to make sure she stays accountable to her lifestyle goals like losing weight.

"I'm not as big as I used to be," Bradsher said. "It's coming off slow, though. I want it to go fast, but it's a slow process."

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