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The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has recently released shocking statistics regarding hypertension – an estimated 131 South Africans die every day from complications caused by hypertension.

The disease is often dubbed the silent killer, because it rarely causes symptoms and can therefore go undetected for years. It is, however, a deadly condition when unmanaged and is the single greatest cause of cardiovascular disease – a serious, irreversible heart condition.

According to SAMA, hypertension is the leading cause of preventable deaths due to a medical condition in South Africa. Most reported cases of hypertension are essential – or primary – hypertension, which is usually caused by unhealthy lifestyle habits. By simply changing your lifestyle you can therefore either prevent getting hypertension or manage your condition if you already suffer from it.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force or pressure with which blood moves through your arteries. Healthy arteries are like open channels with no obstructions, allowing for easy flow of blood.

What is hypertension?

Hypertension is high blood pressure, which means that the blood flows through the arteries with too much force or pressure. Repeated subtle injury to the artery walls caused by this turbulent blood flow or by inflammatory reactions to irritants (such as cigarette smoke) and chemical abnormalities in the blood (such as high cholesterol or blood sugar levels) can cause plaques to form on the inner walls of the arteries. As the material accumulates over time, it causes the arteries to narrow and harden, which increases the blood pressure even further and escalates the condition. This process results in damage to all the body’s organs which depend on the arteries for supplying oxygen-rich blood for its needs.

Once you have hypertension, the condition cannot be reversed. It can, however, be managed and its adverse effects can be lessened.

High-risk behavioural causes of primary hypertension

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol levels caused by an unhealthy diet
  • Being overweight, especially if you carry fat around the abdomen
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • High stress levels over prolonged periods
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • Not having regular preventive care health checks such as blood pressure measurements, cholesterol tests and blood sugar tests

Lifestyle choices to help prevent primary hypertension

  • Stop smoking
  • Limit your intake of unhealthy fats (such as animal fats)
  • Make your biggest source of nutrition whole food – this is unprocessed food such as fresh vegetables and fruit, wholegrains, pulses and beans
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Be physically active
  • Reduce and/or manage your stress levels
  • Limit your salt intake
  • Go for an annual preventive care health check

Members of Medihelp’s Dimension range of benefit options have access to excellent preventive care benefits – including a blood pressure measurement – to help them monitor their health and identify risks early on. Click here for a quotation or to talk to an accredited Medihelp adviser.

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