Health Matters

When was the last time you checked your blood pressure?

Having a simple blood pressure check could save you from suffering – and possibly dying early – from a stroke, heart attack or another chronic condition. May 17th is World Hypertension day with the theme “Know Your Numbers”.

Furthermore, the World Hypertension League, together with the International Society of Hypertension is promoting May Measurement Month. During MMM everyone is encouraged to have their blood pressure checked.

You can have this simple examination done by your doctor, at most pharmacies or for free at any local clinic. If your blood pressure is higher than normal, a condition known as hypertension, you will also get advice on what you can do to lower it.

Almost half of the people that have high blood pressure are not aware of it as it doesn’t make you feel weak or sick. A study by South African scientists found that South Africa has the highest rate of hypertension in Southern Africa.

Blood pressure refers to the pressure at which the heart pumps blood through our blood vessels. When blood pressure is high the heart needs to work harder and over time this causes problems. Hypertension is one of the main risk factors for strokes, heart attacks and heart failure – all of which are leading causes of death across the world. However, with treatment, it can be managed and the chances of developing one of these chronic conditions are greatly reduced.

The causes of hypertension are not clearly understood. What is known is that being overweight, an unhealthy diet, chronic stress, smoking, lack of exercise and excessive drinking are contributing factors. Maintaining a normal weight, exercising for at least 150 minutes a week, and addressing the other lifestyle factors can prevent hypertension or, if your blood pressure is already slightly raised, it might be enough to get it back to normal.

Your health care provider will prescribe medication to bring your blood pressure down if it’s very high. You should know that this treatment doesn’t cure hypertension – if you stop, your blood pressure will go up again. You will need regular check-ups and possible adjustments to the medication until your blood pressure is under control.

Even if you are on treatment you should still adopt healthier habits. If you shed excess weight and get fitter you might need less medication or maybe even be able to stop taking it.

So if you don’t know your numbers, take action for your health today and have your blood pressure checked during May Measurement Month.

Note to editor

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