Untreated, hypertension can kill, but because there are no symptoms you could be living with this silent killer without knowing it…

In South Africa, more than one in three adults live with high blood pressure and it is responsible for one in every two strokes and two in every five heart attacks.

“South Africa has seen an exponential growth in hypertension or high blood pressure (BP) over the last 20 years,” says Professor Bryan Rayner, nephrologist and director of the Hypertension Institute at the University of Cape Town. “In a sense, we are facing a national health emergency, but because the links between high BP and death, heart disease and stroke are indirect, public awareness is poor.”

A blood pressure test is the only way to find out if you have hypertension.

In collaboration with the May Measurement Month (MMM) campaign run by the International Society of Hypertension (ISH), pharmaceutical group Servier is launching #BecauseIsayso – a new worldwide campaign to raise public awareness about the importance of regular blood pressure screening.

WIN a R 2,000 Woolworths Voucher

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

Are you at risk?

“Risk factors for hypertension are a family history of hypertension, diabetes or stroke; obesity; African ethnicity; sedentary lifestyle; diabetes; high BP in pregnancy; and a poor diet with excess alcohol, sugar and salt,” says Rayner. “High BP generally causes no symptoms before it strikes unexpectedly. But the very good news is that medication, combined with a healthy lifestyle, can prevent complications.”

“No one is immune to hypertension – black or white, male or female, rich or poor, old or young, overweight or thin, fit or unfit – and it is essential that everyone has their BP screened regularly especially if you have risk factors for hypertension,” says Rayner. “If your BP is greater than 140/90, further evaluation is required by a health professional. If your BP is between 130-140/80-90, implement lifestyle changes as you are at risk for hypertension.”

Get tested

The theme for Hypertension Day (17 May 2018) is ‘Know Your Numbers’ and a new international awareness campaign “Because I Say So”, launched by Servier and supported by ISH, aims to encourage people to get their blood pressure checked.

“High BP is subject to the rule of halves – 50% of the population are unaware of their condition, 50% of those who are aware do not take treatment, and 50% of those who take treatment are not controlled, leaving only 12,5 % of the total population who are controlled,” says Rayner.

“That’s why awareness campaigns are essential to improve the health of all South Africans. In the US these awareness campaigns have been highly successful, resulting in significant reductions in stroke and heart disease over the last 10 to 20 years.”

Related: How to beat hypertension naturally

The test is non-invasive and quick

Having a blood pressure check is quick, simple and non-invasive.

Usually, a healthcare professional will use an electronic device that is strapped to the upper arm. The cuff or band squeezes the arm for several seconds, cutting off blood flow, and then releases.

It is important that some simple rules are followed when checking for hypertension: sitting calmly, feet flat on the floor, back supported and not having eaten (or smoked) in the past hour.

As part of the drive to promote awareness, blood pressure screenings are being organised by the Southern African Hypertension Society (SAHS), to encourage people to get their blood pressure checked. These will be held at the following venues:

Wits University

16 May: 11:00-13:00, Education campus, Bohlaneng Concourse

17 May: 08:00-12:00, Main Campus (West), Chamber of Mines Concourse

19 May: 09:00-15:00, Bryanston Organic Market

23 May: 11:00-13:00, Education campus, Bohlaneng Concourse

11 July: 11:00-13, Main Campus (West), Chamber of Mines Concourse

25 July: 11:00-13:00, Medical School, Adler Museum Foyer

26 July: 08:00-12:00, Main Campus (West), Chamber of Mines Concourse

2 August: 08:00-12:00, Main Campus (East), Chamber of Mines Concourse

15 August: 11:00-13:00, Education Campus, Bohlaneng Concourse

22 August: 11:00-13:00, Medical School, Adler Museum Foyer

23 August: 08:00-12:00, Main Campus (East), Solomon Mahlangu House Concourse

North-West University Potchefstroom campus

14 – 16: Lovers Lane, Engineering, Ikageng Mall

17 May: Amphi Theatre

Walter Sisulu University, Mthatha

1 – 18 May: BT Ngebs Shopping Centre Mthatha (Thursdays to Saturdays)

19 – 31 May: BT Ngebs Shopping Centre Mthatha (daily)


7 – 31 May: Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens (daily except Sunday)


19 May: 10:00-16:00, Ga-Mogoboya, Thlabine, Facility Sports Ground, Tzaneen


1 – 31 May: Groote Schuur Hospital

For more information, visit www.becauseisayso.net  or www.hypertension.org.za,



Stark Regional and Sex Differences in the Prevalence and Awareness of Hypertension: An H3Africa AWI-Gen Study Across 6 Sites in Sub-Saharan Africa. Glob Heart. 2017 Jun;12(2):81-90. doi: 10.1016/j.gheart.2017.01.007. Epub 2017 Mar 13.

NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC). Worldwide trends in blood pressure from 1975 to 2015: a pooled analysis of 1479 population-based measurement studies with 19·1 million participants. Lancet 2017;389:37-55.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa. Cardiovascular Disease Statistics Reference Document.

4 ISH. . May Measurement Month – get involved now!


While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.