Graphic supplied: Heart&Stroke Foundation
Graphic supplied: Heart&Stroke Foundation
high blood pressure test is the only way to detects whether you have the disease or not. Source: Pexels
high blood pressure test is the only way to detects whether you have the disease or not. Source: Pexels

It is known as the 'silent killer' – killing thousands across the country annually.

High blood pressure, also known a hypertension, is one of the most common risk factors for stroke, heart attacks and kidney disease within the South African population.

About 25 percent of South African adults are hypertensive and consequently carry increased risk for suffering of a stroke or a heart attack.

“The unfortunate consequence of this statistic is that many strokes and heart attacks in the South African population could be prevented if the undiagnosed and uncontrolled hypertensive South Africans were identified and provided with the necessary blood pressure lowering medication. Such life-long medication, if taken by sufficient numbers of people with hypertension, will reduce the number of us suffering a stroke or a heart attack”, Dr Krisela Steyn, Board member of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa said this morning.

Today, May 17, is World Hypertension Day, and the foundation – under the hashtag #MeasureYourPressure – said it was encouraging all South Africans to measure their blood pressure and know their risk for heart disease and stroke because it could happen to anyone.

One in 3 South Africans, 15 years and older have hypertension, with the highest rate of high blood pressure reported among people aged 50 and over for any country in the world.

Almost 8 out of 10 people in this age group are being diagnosed with high blood pressure and a shocking 1 in 10 children are already suffering from high blood pressure.

Sadly, a large portion of the population have no idea they have high blood pressure or are predisposed to it because high blood pressure displays no obvious symptoms and is therefore known as the ‘silent killer’.

The only way to have peace of mind is to get tested regularly, especially if you have raised blood pressure combined with other risk factors such as obesity, smoking, unhealthy eating, physical inactivity. If you are found to be pre-hypertensive or hypertensive at the time of being tested, you need to consult a medical specialist who will decide on whether you need to be treated.

Professor Mashudu Nethononda, associate professor and consultant in cardiology, and HSFSA Board member warned: “Throughout the world but particularly in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, hypertension is by far is  the most important risk factor for cardiovascular disease responsible for death and disability from stroke, heart attacks, heart failure and kidney failure. Its significance derives not only from the catastrophic consequences of this condition, but also from the sheer numbers of people it affects” 
A simple blood pressure test can distinguish if your blood pressure is normal and is a test to be taken annually, or as often as you like, to be well informed about your own health. A blood pressure measurement is made up of two values: systolic pressure, when the heart contracts; and diastolic pressure, when the heart relaxes between beats.

Both numbers of your blood pressure reading are of equal importance. Blood pressure should be checked every year from the age of 18 years, and more often when your blood pressure is already high.
High blood pressure or hypertension is not diagnosed by a single measurement, this only points out when someone needs to seek further medical assessment. If blood pressure falls in the pre-hypertensive category, it provides an opportunity to improve blood pressure by making lifestyle changes, before it progresses to hypertension. The test is certainly of importance for peace of mind and also to identify those who are currently hypertensive without knowing which makes them incredibly vulnerable to having an unexpected heart attack or stroke due to undiagnosed hypertension.

High BP can be controlled effectively with a combination of medication, a healthy diet, exercise, and regular monitoring.

“Knowing your blood pressure measurement and which category of risk you fall into is not enough. It is very important to act on the advice given to you by the health practitioner who conducts your assessment. Getting medical help immediately if you are found to be at high risk for cardiovascular disease due to elevated levels of blood pressure can save your life and prevent disability which may arise from heart disease and/or stroke”, Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa.