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Foundation raises awareness of ‘silent killer’, hypertension

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa is commemorating World Hypertension Day by educating the public on the need to receive accurate blood pressure measurements. SUPPLIED

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa is commemorating World Hypertension Day by educating the public on the need to receive accurate blood pressure measurements. SUPPLIED

Published May 14, 2022

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Cape Town - Hypertension is regarded as one of the “silent killers” and the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) is commemorating World Hypertension Day by educating the public on the need to receive accurate blood pressure measurements.

Every May 17, World Hypertension Day, the foundation’s call to action is to promote best practices to stay up to date with global standards in preventing hypertension and to standardise blood pressure measurements around the world so that the prevalence of the condition can be tracked within and between countries.

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With hypertension (high blood pressure) said to be responsible for 13% of deaths globally, the health promotions manager at HSFSA, Dana Govender, said there had been an increase in the prevalence of the condition over the past 15 years in low- and middle-income countries, given that one in three people are unaware of their hypertension status, with only about 8% of people having their blood pressure under control.

“Hypertension is the leading preventable risk factor for cardiovascular diseases in Africa and globally. It is important to stimulate all countries to address social impact, disease burden, and costs for national health systems. Hypertension is responsible for 13% of all deaths globally.

“High blood pressure is known as a ‘silent killer’ because there are rarely any symptoms or visible signs to warn you that your blood pressure is high. That is why more than 50% of people with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition.

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“Established risk factors, including unhealthy diets, can be associated with affordability and availability of healthy foods, as well as physical inactivity. Another major risk factor is smoking tobacco, and more than 80% of all smokers live in low- to middle-income countries (LMIC). Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to hypertension. With LMICs facing a double burden of malnutrition (i.e. coexistence of undernutrition and overweight/obesity), obesity is another established risk factor which can lead to kidney disease, which in turn can increase blood pressure,” said Govender.

Keeping this year's theme in mind, HSFSA CEO Professor Pamela Naidoo said the call to action was to encourage people to adopt simple health-seeking behaviour changes that can help prevent hypertension and keep hypertensive patients in good health.

“The World Hypertension League (WHL) has promoted World Hypertension Day annually, on May 17. The primary aim of this health event is to increase awareness of the dangers of high blood pressure (BP) or hypertension in populations around the world.

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“In South Africa more than one in three adults live with high blood pressure and high blood pressure is responsible for one in every two strokes and two in every five heart attacks. Also, many people with high blood pressure can't keep their blood pressure under control because they don't take their medicine or follow their treatment plan.

“Therefore, HSFSA urges the public, especially those over the age of 45 years, to get screened and know their numbers. Furthermore, if you have already been diagnosed, our message is clear and strong: stick to the medications prescribed by your doctor. The campaign driven by the World Hypertension League is to raise awareness and knowledge about the need to know one’s blood pressure. It is important to measure your blood pressure accurately and know your blood pressure status and control it by taking your medication to live longer even if you are hypertensive,” said Naidoo.

In order to adopt simple health-seeking behaviour changes, Govender added that it is important to know your blood pressure as it will help prevent or manage high blood pressure.

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“These behaviour changes include eating a healthy, balanced diet to maintain a healthy weight. The HSFSA’s endorsement programme is something that can help in achieving this. The Heart Mark endorsement programme is part of ongoing efforts by the HSFSA to reduce the number of deaths in South Africa from preventable heart disease and stroke. The endorsement programme forms part of a health-enabling environment, offering you a tool that makes choosing healthier foods easier. It’s a guaranteed way to get food lower in salt, lower in sugar, lower in saturated fats, and higher in fibre.

“Additionally, it is important to adhere to the recommended medication provided by your doctor and to also manage behavioural risks such as smoking, excessive salt intake, and lack of physical activity in order to control hypertension,” said Govender.

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