Last updated on Jun 23rd, 2021 at 02:49 pm

Do you know what your blood pressure is and could it be putting you at risk for a heart attack or stroke?

With World Hypertension Day on 17 May 2019, the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa urge all South Africans to have their blood pressure measured because a raised blood pressure (BP) is one of the key risk factors for cardiovascular (CVD), cerebrovascular, and renal diseases.

Raised BP and hypertension are major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, in particular, and are estimated to contribute to nearly half of all coronary heart disease (CHD) and nearly two-thirds of all stroke events.

Both raised BP and hypertension are the leading preventable risk factor for overall mortality, accounting for almost 13% of deaths globally.

What is hypertension?

Nearly 50% of individuals with hypertension, which is medically defined as a blood pressure reading = />140/90, are unaware that they have it. It is not uncommon for these individuals to become acutely ill from heart disease or suffer a stroke.

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It is manageable – but only if you know

While the risk of high BP increases with age and pregnant women are also at risk, BP can be managed and controlled with lifestyle changes and prescribed appropriate medication.

A critical step in preventing and treating high blood pressure is adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Eating a healthier diet, getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, limiting your salt intake to no more than five grams a day, reducing stress and limiting the quantity of alcohol intake to one drink a day are all ways to help prevent high blood pressure.

“Given that hypertension is treatable, it is important to know whether in fact, you are at risk. Moreover, if you have been diagnosed with hypertension, taking your medication as prescribed combined with a healthy lifestyle is essential to achieving blood pressure control to maintain your physical well-being,” says Prof Pamela Naidoo CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA).

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Understanding BP readings – systolic and diastolic pressure

Blood pressure measurement is made up of two values – the systolic pressure (upper value), when the heart contracts; and diastolic pressure (lower value) when the heart relaxes between beats.

Both numbers of your blood pressure reading are of equal importance.

What is the ideal blood pressure level?

In South Africa, we currently define the optimum blood pressure level as 120 (systolic measure) /80 (diastolic measure). These measures are in keeping with international standards.

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Get tested for free

The best way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked by a doctor or a health practitioner.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa will be conducting free blood pressure testing in various communities across four provinces this month. For more information, visit

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.