How dangerous is Hypertension?

How dangerous is Hypertension?

18 May 2016

Do you have dizzy spells, dull headaches, or more nosebleeds than usual?

Here’s the thing … These signs and symptoms usually don’t occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life threatening stage.

Did you know that hypertension affects 1 in 5 adults and is one of the leading causes of death in adults over the age of 50? Yes, hypertension affects approximately 6.3 million South Africans and is so common that almost everybody is affected at some point.

What is hypertension?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a condition where too much pressure is placed on the walls of the arteries.

Imagine a garden hose with a normal flow of water through it, no problem, right? But, if you increase the pressure by drastically turning up the amount of water gushing through, and then pinch off spots of this hose, just like constricted blood vessels … something has got to give! With increased pressure the heart has to work harder to pump an adequate amount of blood to all the tissues of the body, causing serious damage to the walls of the arteries.

So, why should you be worried about hypertension? Over time, uncontrolled hypertension increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, erectile dysfunction and kidney failure.

What causes hypertension?

In as many as 95% of reported hypertension cases the underlying cause cannot be determined. This type of hypertension is called “essential hypertension”, and although essential hypertension is somewhat mysterious, it has been linked to certain risk factors. Hypertension tends to run in families and is more likely to affect men than women. BUT, is also greatly affected by diet and lifestyle.

You are at risk of developing hypertension if you:

  • Have a family member with hypertension.
  • Are a smoker.
  • Are overweight or obese.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Take birth control pills.
  • Are over the age of 35.
  • Are not active.
  • Experience extreme stress.
  • Drink excessively.
  • Eat too many fatty foods or foods with too much salt.
  • Have sleep apnea.

Here’s the good news: You may be able to cure hypertension with lifestyle changes alone!

 What can be done to prevent hypertension?

  • Maintain a healthy body weight. Losing even 2 or 3 kilograms can lower your blood pressure.
  • Get regular aerobic exercise.
  • Quit smoking. Tobacco injures blood vessel walls and speeds up the process of hardening of the arteries.
  • Eat healthy foods. Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy foods. Foods rich in potassium will help to control your blood pressure. Eat less saturated fat, and add foods rich in nitrates; such as beetroot, fennel and lettuce.
  • Reduce your LDL (bad cholesterol) by avoiding processed foods.
  • Limit your salt intake. Limit your salt intake to 1 teaspoon per day. Pay attention to the amount of salt in processed foods.
  • Limit alcohol to two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women.
  • Manage your stress levels. Practise coping techniques, such as muscle relaxing and deep breathing.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is called the “silent killer” because it often has no warning signs or symptoms. Many people are unaware that they have hypertension, and that is why it is important to have your blood pressure monitored regularly.

Ideal blood pressure for an adult is 120/80. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. Ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading at least every 2 years starting from age 18. If you’re 40 or older, or if you’re 18-39 with a high risk of hypertension, request a reading every year.

The consequences of uncontrolled hypertension can be dire. Are you serious about healthy living? Changing your lifestyle could save your life.


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.

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