Hypertension is credited as being the biggest contributing factor to strokes, heart attacks and heart disease in South Africa, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. If the associated high blood pressure remains elevated over a period of time, it can even result in fatalities.
According to Graham Anderson, Principal Officer and CEO at Profmed, most people are not even aware that they have high blood pressure or that they are at risk of developing hypertension. “In 2014, the Heart and Stroke Foundation published information showing that 49% of women and 74% of men were unaware that they had hypertension. This is extremely alarming as these people will simply fail to take appropriate action or the correct medication, putting them at an even greater risk of developing more serious problems.”
“Of the 11 million South Africans diagnosed with hypertension, only 7% have it under control, which means that 93% of diagnosed South Africans are not successfully managing their blood pressure,” notes Anderson.
He says there is a general lack of diagnosis of the condition, as well as a lack of management and correct treatment of diagnosed cases. “There is a great need within the medical fraternity to have stronger initiatives that educate South Africans about hypertension and its dangers, ensuring a proper diagnosis as well as the correct measures are put in place once diagnosed.”
According to Anderson, the best way in which one can manage hypertension is to prevent it from taking place altogether. “This means planning and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, taking into account one’s requirements for balanced mental, physical and nutritional health. A healthy diet in particular forms a very important aspect of controlling hypertension, by limiting one’s salt intake and ensuring they have a good balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and poultry among other groups.”
“It is also essential that people who have been diagnosed with hypertension stick to an exercise routine, ensuring at least one hour of activity per day,” Anderson says. “Exercise can help in reducing obesity, lowering blood pressure to safer and controlled levels, and subsequently reduce the risk of strokes, heart attacks or heart disease.”
A survey published by Profmed in 2014 showed that of the nearly 3 000 graduate professional respondents, 60% of members stated that high stress levels had a negative impact on both their physical and mental wellbeing. “Encouragingly, 28% of respondents said they used exercise to help manage stress successfully, which means that they are able to use exercise to improve fitness, mitigate the risk of obesity, reduce blood pressure, as well as manage stress – further reinforcing the importance of an active lifestyle,” notes Anderson.
“It is important that any new measures or major lifestyle changes are undertaken with supervision from a healthcare provider, who is qualified to ensure proper treatment and control of hypertension that takes into account any other medical conditions a patient has. Furthermore, by conducting annual check-ups with a general practitioner one can ensure timely diagnosis should hypertension become an issue,” concludes Anderson.