Pittsburgh is known as the Most Livable City, but what many do not know; it is also considered a top Hot Spot. Not for vacation destinations, but for hypertension. A recent analysis conducted by Sperling’s BestPlaces, an independent research firm, in partnership with Takeda Pharmaceuticals North American Inc., found Pittsburgh to have the sixth highest rate of hypertension and hypertension risk factors in the country for Hypertension Hot Spots.


Hypertension, or high blood pressure as it is commonly known, is a condition of elevated blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps out blood. It is the second leading preventing risk factor for death in the United States and like many other diseases, hits African-Americans the hardest. It is also considered a silent killer, because it virtually has no exact symptoms. If untreated it can lead to serious problems, such as heart or kidney disease, stroke, congestive heart failure or even death.

According to the Center for Disease Control, from 2005-2008, 39 percent of Black men 20 years old and over and 44 percent of Black women 20 years old and over were diagnosed with hypertension.

Bert Sperling, president of Sperling’s BestPlaces, said the analysis brings attention to hypertension and is a way to get the message out to individuals about the medical condition.

“Whether people live in Pittsburgh or anywhere else, everyone can take control of their health,” Sperling said. “It doesn’t matter where one lives, it comes down to taking care of ourselves.”

The analysis compiled data for the 50 largest US metropolitan areas using a variety of factors, including prevalence rates of hypertension and lifestyle risk factors, the number of hypertension diagnoses, higher hypertension prescriptions per capita, high rates of obesity and more, for its rankings. While Pittsburgh was ranked six, Memphis was ranked one and Detroit was two. Along with the Pittsburgh’s Hot Spot ranking, the city was also first in per-capita prescriptions for hypertension and has the fifth largest obesity rate.

The analysis compared data from several resources, which includes The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the world’s largest phone survey, which represents every type of person. Sperling said the survey included a large number of Black participants.

Karen Colbert, director of Communications for the Pittsburgh affiliate of the American Heart Association, would not comment on the analysis, but said high blood pressure is a severe issue and it is preventable and certainly controllable.

Not only does it hit Blacks harder, but also it is now affecting Blacks at a younger age than other ethnic groups.

“We work in conjunction with other organizations. Our ultimate goal is to make this a healthier community,” Colbert said.

The AHA provides several free tools to help individuals with awareness about their important numbers, which Colbert said are blood pressure, weight and cholesterol. Not only do they provide free screenings at many events, but they also have an online tool through their website, called Mylifecheck, which is a free, confidential tool that offers health information, based on the numbers one provides.

She said this forces people to go to their doctors and get their numbers. “Too often we think if it doesn’t hurt or you can function, you think you’re okay.” She says that is a mentality that people need to get away from. She also stresses asking one’s doctor questions about their numbers if they do not understand what they mean.

Along with the online tool, the AHA holds a Heart Walk event and on Sept. 24 will hold their 14th Annual “Sister to Sister Seminar: Passport to Health” event at the Wyndham Grand Hotel, Downtown. The seminar will focuses on heart and stroke health for minority women.

While some of it is heredity and genetics, like Sperling, Colbert says a part of it is, “us not taking care of ourselves.” She says the best way to control one’s blood pressure is by being active, controlling their cholesterol, eating better, losing weight, reducing salt intake and if one smokes, then to quit smoking.

A healthier life leads to a longer one.

(For more information on the Hypertension Hot Spots, visit http://www.CommitToControl.com, or the American Heart Association, visit http://www.heart.org.)

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