BY: Mpofu Sthandile.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is often described as the ‘silent killer’ due to the lack of obvious symptoms. In the past year, nearly half of all persons diagnosed at City clinics were younger than 45 – once again debunking the idea that high blood pressure, along with other lifestyle diseases, affect only older persons. And, while it is cause for concern, all is not lost, as hypertension can be controlled.
Over a 12-month period between April 2022 and March 2023, City clinics screened 190 295 clients for hypertension.
Of the 3 942 new hypertension cases, 49% (1 932) were in the 18 – 44 age group.
Due to increasing prevalence of risk factors such as smoking and obesity, we are seeing a consistently high number of younger persons with hypertension.
The statistics prove that the onus is on everyone, both old and young, to take ownership of their health, and to be informed about the risks.
‘In response to this emerging trend, City Health has started paying particular attention to persons younger than 40 who are at risk. It takes two minutes to check someone’s blood pressure – two minutes that could mean the difference between life and death. And so I urge everyone to have their BP checked regularly, and to take appropriate steps in consultation with their healthcare provider if need be,’ said Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Patricia Van der Ross.
FACTS ABOUT HYPERTENSION
- Hypertension is defined as a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or higher consistently.
- It is known as the ‘silent killer’, as it generally has no symptoms, but slowly causes damage to organs such as the blood vessels, heart, brain and kidneys if left untreated over many years.
- It is a long-term condition where the blood pressure is increased.
- It is the leading cause of death worldwide, affecting more than 1,4 billion people and accounting for more than 28 000 deaths each day.
- Risk factors include, but are not limited to, a family history of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, ethnicity, lack of exercise, high blood pressure in pregnancy and a poor diet with excess alcohol, sugar and salt.
- ‘The key is to be screened, especially if you have one of the risk factors mentioned. And, the good news is that a healthy lifestyle, together with appropriate medication, can prevent complications and put you in control. But it all starts with stepping up to get your pressure checked,’ said Chairperson of the City’s Portfolio Committee on Community Services and Health, Councillor Ronel Viljoen.
Ways to reduce the risk of hypertension, or to manage the condition include:
- maintaining a healthy lifestyle by being physically active for at least 30 minutes a day
- maintaining a healthy weight
- reducing your salt intake (to less than 5g daily)
- not smoking or using tobacco
- reducing alcohol consumption
- eating a balanced diet low in bad fats
Residents can also find more information at their local clinic, or join the City Health ‘Live Well’ programme, which teaches communities about healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise.
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