The thought of suffering from a stroke is a scary one, so let’s look at ways to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure…

Did you know that high blood pressure (hypertension) affects nearly half of all South Africans?

Known as a ‘silent killer’, hypertension is an underlying risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is estimated to cause 17,7 million deaths each year.

What makes high blood pressure so dangerous?

“According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), hypertension, or uncontrolled high blood pressure, is dangerous because it can lead to heart attacks, heart enlargement, and eventually heart failure. Hypertension can also damage your blood vessels, and lead to aneurysms (weak spots and bulging in your vessels) and strokes. Additional negative health consequences include possible kidney failure, blindness, and cognitive impairment,” says Dr Deepak Patel, clinical specialist at Discovery Vitality,

Dr Patel explains that hypertension is a disease that does its damage to the heart and other organs over time.

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Uncontrolled high blood pressure, is dangerous because it can lead to heart attacks, heart enlargement, and eventually heart failure. It can also damage your blood vessels, and lead to aneurysms and strokes.

“Like diabetes, hypertension is often described as a ‘silent killer’. It’s one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease and stroke, but many adults don’t know they have high blood pressure and don’t check it annually as part of preventive screening. This is critical, because, with the correct treatment plan, increased exercise and healthier diet changes, the long-term damage of hypertension can be prevented.”

Hypertension is one of the most common chronic conditions affecting South Africans today. Discovery Health Medical Scheme recently published results of the prevalence of chronic diseases of lifestyle and its impact on healthcare costs. The data shows that hypertension is the commonest chronic illness in the scheme, with 17,3% of adult men, and 15,9% of adult women needing treatment for high blood pressure.

Almost half of South Africans have high blood pressure

Lose weight and start exercising

Dr Patel highlights higher levels of obesity and the underlying unhealthy lifestyle choices that result in excess weight, as the main reason behind the higher prevalence of hypertension and other chronic diseases of lifestyle.

“Around half of South African adults live sedentary lifestyles, more than double the global average of 23% – making us one of the most inactive countries in the world, below Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Malaysia.”

Physical inactivity has become a global risk factor and predictor of chronic diseases of lifestyle, especially considering the link between obesity and risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes; and exercise as an effective strategy to promote healthy weight.

Follow a healthy diet and don’t smoke

The Heart and Stroke Foundation estimates that 80% of premature deaths before the age of 60, can be prevented by following a healthy diet, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking.

Changing these high-risk behaviours could, therefore, have significant benefits for heart and overall health. For people affected by hypertension and other chronic illnesses, making positive changes in lifestyle could have significant benefits too.

“It’s important that patients with hypertension and other chronic illnesses manage their health holistically. Incorporate exercise daily, eat a healthier diet with enough fruit and vegetables and keep a check on your health with the help of your doctor, means that you can manage your condition effectively,” advise Dr Patel

And advice for those of us who are healthy?

“The same advice applies to those of us who are seemingly healthy. Even if you feel fine, visit your GP or a clinic for a general check-up once a year, or book a Vitality Health Check to track your key health indicators on a regular basis. Taking steps towards prevention and early treatment of hypertension and other chronic illnesses will help ensure a healthier heart,” concludes Dr Patel.

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.