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World Hypertension Day: Get your blood pressure checked at a healthcare facility regularly

Many Western Cape residents have high blood pressure, and they manage it with a routine of healthy eating, regular fitness, and regular blood pressure checks. Left untreated, the condition can lead to heart, brain, kidney and other diseases. While nobody wants any of these problems, it makes sense to get your blood pressure checked. If it is high, it is usually easily treated by a healthcare worker to prevent these serious problems from happening.

 On World Hypertension Day (17 May 2024), the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness urges those at risk to prioritise getting their blood pressure checked at our healthcare facilities or community outreach activities throughout the year, even if they have no symptoms.

 Hypertension (high blood pressure) is when the pressure in your blood vessels is too high (140/90 mmHg or higher). Early detection of high blood pressure can in many cases be lifesaving. Departmental data from 2023 showed that 677 101 residents between the ages 18-44 years were screened for hypertension at our facilities, and the condition was confirmed in 9 656 (1.4) of which 6 578 (68%) have started treatment. In residents between the ages 45 years and older, 257 913 were screened for hypertension and the condition was confirmed in 10 131 (3.9%), of which 8 533 (84.2%) have started treatment. Treating hypertension is not only about taking tablets. Someone with raised blood pressure can also reduce it by adopting a healthy lifestyle and have their blood pressure checked regularly. In keeping with this year’s theme ‘Know your numbers’, Prof. Yazied Chothia, a nephrologist at Tygerberg Hospital, shares the following advice.

 

Why should I measure my blood pressure?

Hypertension is frequently referred to as the ‘silent killer’, meaning there are usually no warning signs or symptoms. It is a myth that hypertension causes headache. As such, many people are unaware that they have hypertension and may only discover it after they have had a heart attack, heart failure or stroke, or kidney disease. Patients also typically have a combination of other risk factors. These include having an unhealthy diet, not exercising, and smoking and drinking too much. Therefore, it is important to check the blood pressure at least once a year.    

 

How do I measure my blood pressure at home?

Home blood pressure monitoring (HBPM) for patients has been found to be as good as the gold standard, if performed correctly. It should be performed twice a day, in the morning when waking up (before taking blood pressure medication) and again at night before going to bed. This should be done for at least four consecutive days. You can ask your healthcare provider to demonstrate how to check your blood pressure.

 

What should I do if my blood pressure is high?

All Western Cape Government Health and Wellness healthcare facilities offer blood pressure checks. If you are concerned about your blood pressure, consult your nearest clinic or general practitioner to manage your hypertension and get it under control.

 

‘The best way to keep your blood pressure down is to know what makes it go up. So, know your number.  If you don’t know the value of your blood pressure, it is like not knowing the value of your body,’ said Operational Nursing Manager Diane Fortuin of Tygerberg Hospital’s special clinics.

 

If I have hypertension, how do I control it?

‘Only 1 out 10 persons who are receiving treatment for hypertension have controlled blood pressure. To achieve blood pressure control, both lifestyle changes and adhering to medication are important,’ said Prof. Chothia.

 

Lifestyle changes are very important. These include adherence to a low-salt diet daily. Moderate exercise of 150 minutes per week or 30 minutes 5 days a week is recommended. Those who are overweight or obese should try to achieve a normal body weight to avoid developing hypertension or to maintain their blood pressure if they are diagnosed with hypertension. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can negatively affect your blood pressure; therefore, it is advisable to stop smoking and look at reducing your alcohol consumption to improve your health status.

 

Start making small changes toward living a healthier you by making a conscious effort to keep moving and going for regular walks, eating more nutritious meals, finding time to improve your stress levels and mental health, and educating yourself on the different food groups that will improve your blood pressure.

 

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