Richard Benson, M.D., Ph.D. is the director of the Office of Global Health and Health Disparities for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Division of Clinical Research.
As a leader in the fields of vascular neurology and health disparities research, he uses his expertise to inform minorities and the community about health disparities, health equity and global health.
Dr. Benson explained why Black men have the highest risk of stroke, high blood pressure and dementia.
What is the ultimate goal of the Mind Your Risks campaign?
The Mind Your Risks campaign is a public health campaign that was created by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. It’s focused on one of the highest-risk groups in the United States at risk for stroke, dementia and uncontrolled hypertension. That group is African American men, and it’s focused specifically on African American men between the ages of 28 and 45. In this group of men, if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, during that age range, you have a longer chance of developing damage to the arteries in the brain, the heart, and throughout the body. That increases the risk of having a stroke, a heart attack, or developing dementia. That’s according to data from a study called the SPRINT MIND study. This particular campaign is to educate middle-aged African American men about their risks and how to modify their risk of developing dementia later in life.
Why are stroke, high blood pressure and dementia so prevalent among Black males?
One of the main drivers of this high rate of stroke [in]] African American men is uncontrolled high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. We know that 1 in 3 Americans has hypertension, 1 in 2 African Americans has high blood pressure, and of those who know they have high blood pressure and are on medication for high blood pressure, still about a third of those are not well-controlled. If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, the number one modifiable risk factor for stroke, cardiovascular disease, and consequently developing dementia is uncontrolled hypertension. We know that African American men, unfortunately, don’t go to the doctor a lot. When you think of needs, health care is at the bottom of the list, particularly when you think of people, men between the ages of 28 and 45. Having uncontrolled hypertension for that period of time puts you at risk for all of these negative health outcomes.