Too many people unaware of high blood pressure, medical experts warn

Picture by Karolina Grabowska/Pexels.

Picture by Karolina Grabowska/Pexels.

Published May 4, 2023


Johannesburg - Uncontrolled high blood pressure can significantly increase the chances of cognitive decline, stroke, heart attack and other life-threatening conditions, health experts warn.

The World Health Organization estimates that only one in five people with high blood pressure have it under control.

Meanwhile, the Southern African Hypertension Society said that an estimated 40% of people older than 25 have hypertension, and half of them are unaware of their condition and, therefore, not receiving the treatment they need to be healthy.

Pharmacist Ivan Mashabane of Medipost Pharmacy, explained that many people are living with this dangerous condition but do not realise it and are, therefore, at greater risk of health complications.

“Although high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can strike from a younger age, individuals aged over 40 years should regularly check their blood pressure, as well as anyone with a family history of diabetes mellitus or hypertension, as they are at higher risk for developing high blood pressure,” he said.

Mashabane said that symptoms of uncontrolled high blood pressure may include blurry vision, dizziness, light-headedness, shortness of breath or feeling discomfort in the chest. “Sometimes people with hypertension may not have noticeable symptoms, and this is why regular screening is needed for early diagnosis,” he said.

Pharmacist Ivan Mashabane of Medipost Pharmacy. Supplied image.

The pharmacist explained that a blood pressure test measures the pressure of your blood when your heart is pumping the blood around your body, as well as the resting pressure between heartbeats.

“Normal blood pressure is around 120/80, with blood pressure readings expressed as systolic pressure over diastolic pressure.”

He added that when hypertension is not brought under control, it places extra pressure on the cardiovascular system, potentially leading to heart attack, heart failure or stroke.

“It can also cause irreparable damage to other systems, leading to conditions such as kidney failure, cognitive decline due to vascular dementia, and it may permanently impair a person’s vision,” Mashabane said.

In order to keep the medical condition under control, the pharmacist recommended the use of oral anti-hypertensive medication, which is available to help manage high blood pressure. “Although, a healthy lifestyle and exercise are also necessary to protect your health and keep your blood pressure within the target range.”

Mashabane also advised patients to eat before taking prescribed anti-hypertensive medication. “Some of the medication is slowly released, and others may be hard on the lining of the stomach, and so blood pressure treatment should always be taken with food,” he said.

“Being diagnosed with a chronic condition such as hypertension and starting a new medication can seem daunting, but we are here to help. To be most effective, chronic medicine must be taken at the right dosage continuously and must be regularly monitored with your doctor or clinic.”

Medipost Pharmacy delivers chronic medication to 450 000 medical scheme-funded patients as well as over 700 000 public healthcare sector (NHI) patients per month on average.

“To make it as easy as possible for patients to adhere to prescribed chronic treatment, Medipost Pharmacy offers telephonic support from the pharmacy team in all official languages to discuss queries related to the medicines dispensed. We also offer free delivery of chronic medicines to any address in South Africa,” he said.

He added that where possible, people with hypertension can greatly benefit from having a blood pressure monitor, also known as an automatic sphygmomanometer, at home to keep track of their blood pressure and note their progress in improving their readings.

“This can encourage and help maintain the healthy momentum required to keep to the treatment plan and make the required lifestyle changes sustainable,” Mashabane recommended.

“Drinking enough water is also particularly important for patients with hypertension unless otherwise directed by your treating doctor, as hydration helps with cell repair, which is crucial to maintaining healthy organs.”

As well as dispensing medicines to individuals, Mashabane said that Medipost Pharmacy also provides devices such as blood pressure monitors, supplements, and home self-care products for delivery.

“The service also assists patients in registering PMB conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, among others, to help conserve medical scheme members’ day-to-day benefits.”

And in terms of prevention and maintaining healthy blood pressure, a consistently healthy diet from a young age and having a physically active routine can be helpful, especially for those with inherited genetic risk for hypertension, he said.

“If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is an opportunity to improve your health and quality of life. As your national chronic medicine courier pharmacy of choice, we are here to support you with confidential, reliable, and convenient delivery wherever you may live in South Africa.”

The Saturday Star