In December 2016 I rushed to the doctor as I was experiencing severe headaches and my feet were swollen. For weeks I had been blaming it on the December heat. At my visit to the GP we discovered that my blood pressure was 155/115. After numerous tests, it was confirmed that I was hypertensive. I was immediately treated with medication, but losing 15kg has helped me keep my blood pressure under control.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of hypertension in the world and there are more than 1 billion people affected by this silent killer worldwide. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and even eye diseases.
What is hypertension?
Hypertension occurs when the body’s blood vessels are persistently put under increased pressure.
How can I be affected by hypertension?
People may develop hypertension because it is genetic or due to lifestyle habits, such as the harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity, being overweight, high salt intake, or even stress. According to the Hypertension Society of South Africa, approximately four in 10 adults older than 25 have hypertension .
Blood Pressure Readings:
Blood pressure readings comprise two readings:-
- Systolic – The maximum arterial pressure during contraction of the left ventricle of the heart.
- Diastolic – The bottom number indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.
The Effects & Treatment of Hypertension
Left undetected or untreated, hypertension can damage one’s body as highlighted in the below illustration.
Treatment for hypertension depends of the severity of the blood pressure reading. The goal of hypertension treatment is to lower high blood pressure and protect important organs, like the brain, heart and kidneys from damage. Treatment for hypertension has been associated with reductions in stroke, heart attack and heart failure according to research. A lifestyle change is ultimately the solution to preventing or reducing hypertension. Treatment with medication is recommended to lower blood pressure to less than 130/80 in people older than age 65 and those with risk factors such as diabetes and high cholesterol. The downside of the medication is that the there are several side-effects.
Lifestyle Changes to Treat High Blood Pressure
A critical step in preventing and treating high blood pressure is a healthy lifestyle. You can lower your blood pressure with the following lifestyle changes:
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet to less than 1,500 milligrams a day if you have high blood pressure; healthy adults should try to limit their sodium intake to no more 2,300 milligrams a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt).
- Getting regular aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking at least 30 minutes a day, several days a week)
- Limiting your consumption of alcohol