Cape Town - Ahead of World Hypertension Day on May 17, here are some signs and tips on combating one of the major global diseases.
Hypertension or high blood pressure, as it is commonly known, is one of the major global causes of disease and death, and can lead to stroke and heart disease, among other complications.
According to Karl Bremer Hospital’s Head of Internal Medicine, Dr De Vries Basson, stroke awareness is important and he encouraged people to learn about hypertension.
"Hypertension is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, renal complications, among other things. Hypertension is one of our ‘silent killers’ and most patients do not know what their daily blood pressure patterns are or that they actually have hypertension," Dr Basson said.
He said hypertension occurs when the pressure in your blood vessels is too high (140/90 mmHg or higher). It is common but can be serious if not treated.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30-79 years worldwide have hypertension, while about 46% of adults with hypertension are unaware that they have the condition.
What are the risk factors for hypertension?
* older age
* being overweight or obese
* not being physically active
* high-salt diet
* drinking too much alcohol
According to the health department, lifestyle changes such as a healthier diet, quitting tobacco and becoming more active can help lower your hypertension. But, some people may still need to take medication.
* severe headaches
* chest pain
* difficulty breathing
* blurred vision or other vision changes
* buzzing in the ears
* abnormal heart rhythm
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is advisable to seek care immediately.
Tips for a healthier lifestyle
According to Dr Basson, there are three ways to control your hypertension and stay healthy.
1. Know your numbers:
"It is important that you know your blood pressure and your daily patterns. Speak to a healthcare worker at your clinic if you need support. It is also important that you take your medication as advised by your doctor or pharmacist.
“Take your medication even if you feel better. You cannot stop hypertension by taking your medication on one day only, you need to follow the advice provided by your doctor or nurse."
2. Diet and exercise:
"Take note of your diet and exercise regularly. Reduce the amount of salt in your diet. By monitoring your diet and exercising (exercise 30-45 minutes, three to four times per week (150min/week), you can reduce your blood pressure and reduce your chances of developing other diseases like diabetes mellitus."
3. Building healthy habits:
"Address other confounding factors that could make your hypertension worse - like smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, hypercholesterolemia, cardiac dysrhythmias like atrial fibrillation; HIV and sleep apnea."
How to recognise a stroke:
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, 13% of global deaths are related to heart disease and strokes; in South Africa 1 in 3 adults live with high blood pressure, and it is responsible for 1 in every 2 strokes, and 2 in every 5 heart attacks.
The acronym to remember is FAST.
F is face (weakness involving half of the face);
A is arm (is there any drift in the arms when asked to raise your arm);
S is speech (does the person's speech sound slurred or unclear)
T is to take note of the time. Take the person to a hospital immediately or call an ambulance and say that your loved one is having a stroke. It's important to think and act fast. The sooner you get to the emergency unit, the better the outcomes will be.
“If you suspect that your blood pressure is high or uncontrolled, please visit your nearest clinic for support. The only way to detect hypertension is to have a health professional measure blood pressure. The process of having your blood pressure checked is quick and painless.
“While you can measure your own blood pressure by using an automated device, a clinic visit is important to check your risk and overall health. Your local nurse or doctor can also refer you to a dietician to assist with creating a healthy meal plan.
“Visit your local clinic today for support.,” Dr Basson added.