It is commonly regarded as a silent killer responsible for half of all strokes, 40 percent of heart attacks and about 60 percent of kidney failures – yet very few South Africans get tested for high blood pressure or hypertension.
Of those who know of their raised blood pressure, only a portion are on medication, and only a quarter of hypertensive patients achieve adequate control of the disease.
These disturbing figures that have prompted the national department of health, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation to embark on a massive testing campaign, starting on Tuesday.
Globally hypertension is receiving attention today on World Hypertension Day.
An initiative of the World Hypertension League, for the past 11 years, the day has been commemorated to promote public awareness of hypertension and to encourage citizens of all countries to prevent and control this silent killer.
Christelle Crickmore of the Science and Programme Manager: HSFSA, says increased western style diet and other factors have created 'a perfect storm' of hypertension or high blood pressure in South Africa with 1 in 3 adults suffering from this disease.
It's not only old people. It's not only people in the cities. It's not only a specific race group. It's really effecting all of us.— Christelle Crickmore of the Science and Programme Manager: HSFSA
High blood pressure is just the common name on the street that people use for it, but the medical term is hypertension.— Christelle Crickmore of the Science and Programme Manager: HSFSA
Crickmore explains that normal blood pressure is around 120/80. Blood pressure is the pressure needed to punp the blood through the body.
But uncontrolled high blood pressure over a long period of time, can cause damage to our blood vessels.
The blood vessels stiffen and harden, losing their elasticity. Tears can develop, and eventually blood to the heart and brain can be blocked off and that leads to heart attacks and strokes.
Unfortunately it is called the silent killer because we cannot really feel anything. The only way you will know is to have your blood pressure tested.— Christelle Crickmore of the Science and Programme Manager: HSFSA
Crickmore implores everyone over the age of 20 to get tested annually at a local clinic, pharmacy or doctor.
Themed, “Know your numbers”, the league has called for a testing campaign. The campaign with the National Department of health aims to get 3 million people to test their blood pressure between 17 and 24 May.
And if you have high blood pressure there is hope...
Medication if needed, but also lifestyle changes are key.
It is important to lose weight as obesity and being overweight is a contributing factor.
Eat lots of fruit and vegetables, cut out salt and watch portion sizes.
Stop or at least cut down on alcohol and smoking as they are big factors that cause high blood pressure.