Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a medical condition affecting thousands of South Africans, showing no discrimination against gender.
Dr Braham Barnard, a cardiologist, based at Mediclinic Bloemfontein, claims while there is no perfect value, a person with a blood pressure reading above 130/80 is suffering from hypertension. Moreover, he adds that this condition’s prevalence puts an immense strain on the country’s healthcare system and should be taken seriously.
The seriousness of hypertension in SA has reached a level, whereby the Southern Africa Hypertension Society claims, approximately four in 10 adults older than 25 have hypertension.
The society expounds further, “This means that nearly one billion people have hypertension. The unfortunate part is that around 50% of these people are unaware of their condition. Of those who are aware, half do not take any action to control their blood pressure, either through lifestyle modification or medication. Keeping this in mind, the society enthuses that this means 75% of the world’s hypertensive population are at risk and are potential candidates for heart disease, strokes, kidney disease or even sudden death.
Therefore, it is essential to go for blood pressure readings regularly. These readings consist of systolic (maximum) and diastolic (minimum) values. While both these values are critical in attaining correct feedback, it is the systolic reading that is most critical.
Barnard elaborates that a common misconception is that an optimal diastolic value alone indicates a person’s blood pressure is normal. However, he says this is not true—especially when taking age into account. The doctor further highlights that the older a patient is, the more critical the systolic value.
While hypertension is more prevalent in people over 40 years of age, younger people are also at risk of suffering from the condition.
Dr Barnard emphasises it is not uncommon for people in their 20’s to have high blood pressure. This is especially true for those with a family history of this condition. While there are various medications and treatments to combat hypertension, Dr Barnard highlights that improving your lifestyle should be people’s leading priority, before resorting to drugs. This is because poor eating habits and inactivity promote this condition, and lifestyle changes can effectively manage your blood pressure.
The Hypertension Society urges people to take up a healthy diet, comprising of many vegetables, fruits, grains and water, with minimal processed foods, opting for low sodium (salt) options. Moreover, the society adds that regular exercise, coupled with avoiding tobacco products and excessive alcohol intake contributes to a healthy lifestyle free of hypertension.
To avoid suffering from high blood pressure, be sure to have your blood pressure checked today and take the necessary steps to minimise your chances of the medical conditions linked to it.
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