China’s most stressed minority? 1/3 of Yi ethnicity suffers hypertension

Those who believe big city living can be stressful have never visited  the rural Shilin Yi Autonomous County, where China’s Yi minority were recently recorded with some of the nation’s highest levels of hypertension.

In an attempt to better understand the condition among rural and minority populations, researchers from top hospitals in Kunming and Nanjing administered physicals to 2208 Yi seniors.

Though initially testing for eye disorders, the researchers soon found  38.6% of adults  over 50 were suffering from hypertension, or high blood pressure, in the minority region located in southwestern Yunnan province.

Women were the most likely to suffer from hypertension with 39.4% positive, significantly higher than the national average of 28%.

With many in  the fertile region working as farmers,  few of the adults tested were obese, a common cause of high blood pressure, the study said.

Instead, they believe  diet and lifestyle were responsible for the high rates.

Their preference for eating Rubing , a firm, fatty cheesed produced from goat’s milk is believed to be a large contributor to higher hypertension rates among  the Yi minority versus other minorities in the region.

A diet high in preserved foods, which contain large amounts of sodium, also contributed to the high hypertension levels.

Of those that suffer from the condition, less than a quarter, 24.2%, were aware of it, the study found.

“There is an urgent need to develop a hypertension education program to coordinate efforts for the detection, prevention, and treatment of hypertension in the Yi ethnic communities,” the study, Prevalence, awareness, medication, control, and risk factors associated with hypertension in Yi ethnic group aged 50 years and over in rural China: the Yunnan minority eye study, said.

It was published by BMC Public Health on April 15.