Is hypertension in your future?
Almost half the adult population of South Africa has abnormally high blood pressure (hypertension). A Mediclinic expert explains why this condition is serious – and what you can do to manage it.
According to the 2016 South Africa Demographic and Health Survey, 46% of women and 44% of men have hypertension (high blood pressure) in South Africa and in both genders, the prevalence of hypertension rises with age.
‘While there is no perfect value, a person with a blood pressure reading above 130/80 can be classified as suffering from hypertension,’ says Dr Braham Barnard, a cardiologist based at Mediclinic Bloemfontein. ‘The prevalence of this condition places a massive strain on the South African healthcare system and should be taken seriously.’
Blood pressure readings consist of systolic (maximum) and diastolic (minimum) values. And while both these values are critical in achieving proper feedback, it is the systolic reading that is most critical.
‘A common misconception is that an optimal diastolic value alone indicates a person’s blood pressure is normal,’ Dr Barnard says. ‘But this is not true, especially when taking age into account. The older the patient, the more important the systolic value. And it is this upper value that needs management.’
Dr Barnard goes onto add that while hypertension is more prevalent in those over 40 years old, younger people are also at risk of suffering from the condition.
‘It is not uncommon for people in their 20’s to have high blood pressure, especially if there is a family history of this condition,’ he explains. ‘Screening (having a simple blood pressure reading taken at a clinic) is a must if this is the case.’
Great advances have been made in hypertension prevention and medication in the past decade. There are eight different classes of hypertension medication available and there has been a marked decrease in the condition among those who have sought treatment. But as Dr Barnard explains, improving your lifestyle should be the foremost priority before resorting to various medications. As poor eating habits and inactivity promote this condition, lifestyle changes can go along way as far as effective management is concerned.
‘Diet is the number one influencing factor in hypertension,’ he says. Eating fruit and vegetables plus limiting your intake of salt, saturated fats, sugar and simple carbohydrates is key. ‘While hypertension is not curable, in many cases it most certainly is manageable,’ Dr Barnard concludes.