Raising Awareness of Hypertension in South Africa

Do you or someone you love have high blood pressure (hypertension)? Are you worried about the risk of having, a stroke or a heart attack because of it? You are not alone. Hypertension is the most common chronic condition among senior adults today.

High blood pressure refers to the force of blood against your artery walls as your heart pumps blood through your body, hypertension occurs when the force of blood is stronger than it normally should be. A normal blood pressure of an adult is regarded to be 120/80 mmHg, anyone whose blood pressure is higher for a longer period is said to have high blood pressure.

Over 1 in 3 South African adults, starting from the age of 15 and older, suffer from high blood pressure according to The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa. It is with sadness that South Africa is ranked among the most affected countries by hypertension placed fifth in the world.  Such a high rapid rise is connected to behavioral and social factors among senior adults today.

Rise of Hypertension in Our Society

High blood pressure is a silent killer with no obvious symptoms, over 90% of adults already suffer from primary hypertension, this genetic condition is connected to socio patterns such as poor diets lacking needed nutrients, uncontrolled stress levels, smoking tobacco, being overweight and excessive alcohol intake. Another risk factor is the excessive intake of salt, which is currently consumed  2-3 times higher than the daily recommended allowance of 5g among South Africans. The government’s efforts to intervene has seen the legislation of sodium in certain foods to be minimized in not more than 5g per individual’s salt intake a day come into effect. Thus after the World Health Organization’s recommendation to reduce salt consumption by 2025 to a drastically 2g per day.

Effects of High Blood Pressure

Uncontrolled high blood pressure hardens your arteries, which decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart and may lead to dangerous risks of strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, damage to eyesight, swollen ankles, and shortness of breath. High blood pressure is particularly difficult for seniors who can suffer extreme fatigue which can result in loss of independence.

Proper Management of High Blood Pressure

Change in lifestyle plays an important role in managing high blood pressure such  as adopting a healthy balanced diet,  reducing your salt intake to less than 1 teaspoon (5g) a day,  or by substituting  your salt intake with other flavors such as dried herbs, spices, lemon juice, and garlic without the need for salt. In addition, limiting the use of alcohol, smoking and maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise, can reduce your risk of high blood pressure.

While South Africa is currently leading the fight against salt intake, we must take action to acknowledge the public and provide education about hypertension and its link to stroke and heart diseases. Moreover, efforts to raise health awareness in seniors must take centre stage to reduce the growing rise of high blood pressure in our society.

 

By: Sally Perkins

 

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