South Africans are urged to focus on exercise and healthy lifestyles, especially in their 20s and 30s, to prevent hypertension and its associated risks such as strokes and vascular dementia later in life.
Graham Anderson, CEO and Principal Officer of Profmed, says that sustained hypertension (high blood pressure) during ones 20s and 30s is particularly dangerous as the effects of the condition are compounded over a longer period of time.
“The good news, however, is that early detection and lifestyle changes can usually reverse hypertension quickly and effectively. Even moderate exercise, such as daily walks, in conjunction with healthy diets, not smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation can have a significant impact on lowering your blood pressure,” Anderson says.
The long-term force against your blood vessels, caused by hypertension, can eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease, strokes and vascular dementia.
In July 2016, a study published in The Lancet medical journal confirmed that hypertension is the biggest risk factor for strokes. The study found that participants could avoid 90% of strokes by eliminating each of the top 10 risk factors, including hypertension, obesity and smoking.
Another study by The George Institute for Global Health in May 2016 found patients with hypertension aged between 30 to 50 had a 62 per cent higher risk of vascular dementia as a result of sustained hypertension.
“These studies indicate the need to raise awareness of the cause of hypertension and how best to avoid it as many people in South Africa may not fully understand how dangerous it can be,” Anderson says, urging the public to have their blood pressure tested annually to ensure early detection of the hypertension.
High blood pressure is a common condition and is known as the ‘silent killer’ because the symptoms, such as headaches, nausea and sleepiness, may not all occur at once and can be linked to other conditions. This, according to Anderson, may be a factor in why hypertension is not adequately detected and managed properly in South Africa.
“Hypertension is a Prescribed Minimum Benefit and treatment is fully covered by your medical scheme. What is crucial is adhering to the treatment plan as prescribed by your doctor to ensure the efficacy of the treatment,” concludes Anderson.