Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is important as an elevated blood pressure can significantly increase your risks of heart, brain, kidney and other diseases.
An estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30-79 years worldwide have hypertension or high blood pressure, according to the World Health Organization.
As we mark World Hypertension Day on 17 May 2022 this year, Western Cape Government Health and Wellness Nurse Verna Jacobs has encouraged residents to learn more about high blood pressure to protect themselves and their loves ones. Sr Jacobs, who works at the Elsies River Community Health Centre, leads a hypertension support group to empower residents living with hypertension.
In line with this year’s theme, “measure your blood pressure accurately, control it, live longer,” below are four commons myths about the condition and how you can prevent and manage high blood pressure.
MYTH: High blood pressure is not serious and only affects older people
FACT: “Hypertension is a serious condition and should not be ignored,” says Sr Jacobs.
“High blood pressure can affect anyone, including children. It increases the risk of heart and brain disease and can have serious health implications if left untreated or uncontrolled.”
Among other complications, uncontrolled hypertension can cause serious damage to the heart. This can lead to chest pain, heart attack or heart failure.
Have your blood pressure and glucose levels checked at least once a year and more often if you have a family history of chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes.
MYTH: High blood pressure can’t be prevented
FACT: Some lifestyle habits can increase your blood pressure. In the same way, other habits can reduce your blood pressure. Risk factors include unhealthy diets (excessive salt consumption, a diet high in saturated fat and trans fats, low intake of fruits and vegetables), physical inactivity, consumption of tobacco and alcohol.
Sr Jacobs explains: “Hypertension can be prevented and managed through a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle includes healthy eating and exercise. Avoiding eating certain foods to improve your health. This include reducing your salt intake. Salt intake of less than 5 grams per day (just under a teaspoon) for adults helps to reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart attack. A balanced diet includes all food groups in your diet, these food groups include starch, protein, fat, fruit, and vegetables. Cut down on sugary treats and processed foods.”
In addition, being overweight or having obesity may increase you risk for high blood pressure, but help is available. Talk to a healthcare worker about your diet and reaching a healthy weight.
Genetic factors can also play a role in high blood pressure, heart disease, and other related conditions. People with family members diagnosed with high blood pressure are at risk of developing the disease and should therefore be mindful and should go for regular check-ups.
MYTH: You won’t need to complete treatment if you feel better after a few weeks
FACT: If you receive medication, it is important to take it to complete treatment as recommended by a healthcare worker. Do your best to implement healthy lifestyle habits recommended by your nurse or doctor, such as exercising regularly. “As soon a patient is diagnosed, treatment will start. A healthy lifestyle and taking your medication will help to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. Therefore, it greatly reduces your risk of heart and kidney disease,” says Sr Jacobs.
Changing your lifestyle can help control and manage high blood pressure. Ask a healthcare worker about the best blood pressure treatment for you.
MYTH: You will know if you have high blood pressure
FACT: Hypertension is called the “silent killer” for a reason. “Many people with hypertension are unaware that they have the condition and may not display symptoms,” says Sr Jacobs.
Some patients may display symptoms which can include early morning headaches, nosebleeds, irregular heart rhythms, vision changes, and buzzing in the ears. Severe hypertension can cause fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, anxiety, chest pain, and muscle tremors.
It is important that you have a healthcare worker measure your blood pressure to detect hypertension. The process is easy, painless and free at our clinics.
Access to healthcare is a basic human right, whether for hypertension, diabetes or any other condition. If you need support, you can make an appointment at your local clinic or visit your clinic. Healthcare workers at Western Cape Health and Wellness centres are ready to support you. Speak to your healthcare worker about chronic condition support clubs at your local clinic if you have high blood pressure. If hypertension is detected early, it is possible to minimise the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney failure. Individuals who already have hypertension can manage their condition by:
• Adopting the healthy behaviour listed above.
• Getting regular health and blood pressure checks.
• Regularly taking any prescribed medications for lowering blood pressure.
• Following any other medical advice from a trained healthcare worker.