Taking matters into your own hands

A study by Wits University scientists and peers revealed that the prevalence of hypertension ranges from 42% to 54% in South Africa, the highest rates in Southern Africa. Hypertension is a result of abnormally high blood pressure and is one of the most common non-communicable (lifestyle) diseases. There is still much to be learned about the management of the disease.

It’s important to diagnose and treat high blood pressure, which is also known as hypertension. It increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, and death.

Known as a ‘silent killer’, signs of high blood pressure rarely have any symptoms. According to The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, this is why “more than 50% of people with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition”. In cases where a person’s blood pressure have escalated, symptoms such as headaches, disturbed vision, nose bleeds, nausea and vomiting, and facial hot flushes may be experienced.

Diagnosis – your blood pressure readings

First and foremost, it is important to diagnose and treat the signs of high blood pressure as early as possible to avoid the increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, and death.

A blood pressure measurement is recorded as two numbers: systolic and diastolic. Systolic blood pressure (SBP) indicates the pressure when the heart contracts, and therefore the pressure is always higher. The diastolic blood pressure (DBP) indicates pressure when the heart is resting between beats.

The optimal blood pressure measurement is less than 120/80 mmHg, where the first number represents the systolic blood pressure and the second number the diastolic blood pressure. A person’s systolic blood pressure pre-hypertension should be between 120 to 139 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure between 80 to 89 mmHg. Hypertension is diagnosed when your blood pressure reading is persistently higher than 140/90 for more than two visits to your practitioner.

What are the risk factors?

It is important to take note of the following risk factors when looking for signs of hypertension: age, obesity a diet high in salt, alcohol, a sedentary lifestyle, personality traits, race and family history.

Individuals should also be cautious of over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, decongestants, weight-loss medications, birth control pills and chronic pain that can increase blood pressure. Another common cause is untreated or undiagnosed sleep apnea.

The natural way to lower your blood pressure

There are ways to lower your blood pressure naturally. Diet and exercise are essential to curbing the negative side effects of increased blood pressure. A proper diet and losing weight can significantly lower your blood pressure and can help to make pills and supplements more effective.

What you eat

One teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium, your body only needs 1,500 mg of sodium a day. Information such as this, and more, should make us more inclined to be aware of the way we eat and yet many are not.

People with blood pressure issues should get around 2,000 mg a day. A good diet to lower blood pressure should emaphasise eating vegetables. fruit and low-fat dairy, whole grains, fish and reduced amounts of fat and red meat. Better still, you could have your genes tested to see which diet would be the best suited for your gene-type.

To make a significant change to your blood pressure you would also have to make the effort to read the labels on the food products you buy, taking note of serving size and sodium per serving. A basic principle would be to eat fresh vegetables and other foods that have low sodium. Be mindful of soups, meats, cheese, condiments, and in some cases bread. Use salt-free options such as basil, cinnamon, chili powder, cumin, dill, ginger, marjoram, or nutmeg for example.

Get your body moving

Losing weight and consistent exercise help to lower blood pressure by 5 to 10 mmHg. 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week or 150 minutes of moderate a week would begin to show benefits over time.

Overall, staying the course with a good diet, exercise and maintaining check-ins with your doctor will ensure that you keep healthy and your blood pressure low.