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If you are suffering from high blood, you need to read this

By Faeza
09 December 2016

SOUTH Africa is a sick nation. Thousands of people are dying of high blood pressure and other chronic diseases caused by our lifestyle and one of them being large intakes of

salt. Statistics show that 6.3 million people are being hospitalised or die due to high blood pressure. This has taken a toll on State coffers as the health budgets are hitting the roof.

Last year the government decided to intervene by encouraging a reduction of salt intake as this would be more cost-effective, than using medications to lower blood pressure in all

persons with hypertension.


High blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps the blood. It is sometimes called hypertension, which happens when the sodium in the body is too high. Dr Solomom Motlanthe, who owns a medical practice called Motlanthe Medical Surgery in Kagiso on the West Rand, says most of the time no cause can be found. “In some cases, kidney diseases, pregnancy, blood vessels, lung and heart diseases can be the cause of high blood pressure. In Africans, high blood pressure tends to be severe due to genetic changes (relating to genes),” he says. He also explains that kidney disease, stroke, heart disease, and erectile dysfunction can be associated

with high blood pressure.


According to Dr Solomon, normal blood pressure for adults is defined as a systolic pressure (the maximum arterial pressure during contraction of the left ventricle of the heart) below 120 mmHg, and a diastolic pressure (the minimum arterial pressure during contraction of the left ventricle of the heart) below 80 mmHg to a young person

can be up to 120. He also says that it is normal for blood pressure to change when you sleep, wake up, are excited or nervous. “When you are active, it is normal for your high

blood pressure to increase. However, once the activity stops, your blood pressure will return to your normal baseline range,” he says. Dr Solomon explains that the easiest way to treat the disease is following a healthy diet and reducing salt intake to two grams per day, or buying potassium salt at a chemist as this has less sodium which cannot increase blood pressure. “Drink alcohol in moderation, or avoid it altogether. Also physical activity must be increased like brisk walking for 30 minutes for four times a week, and joining a gym is helpful if you can afford it. If it happens that your blood pressure is high, most doctors will start with not so strong tablets, and adjust according to response,” he says.


Dr Solomon also mentions that side effects can be caused by taking medication. He says most medicines can have side effects, and blood pressure medicines are no different. This does not mean that you will definitely have side effects from your medicines. Most people who take blood pressure medicines don’t have problems at all. “Most medication will come with information which has a known list of side effects. The list is often long, but no one will ever have the difficulties mentioned. If your medication gives you worries, the best thing is to speak to your doctor, or your pharmacist,” he says. Dr Solomon says some common side effects of high blood pressure medicines include coughing, erectile problems, feeling nervous and tired, and lack of energy. “Some may cause low blood pressure or hypotension as they are too strong. Swelling of legs is also a common effect, and rash is another side effect,” he says. “I also advise people to check their blood pressure on a regular basis. You may also do tests for cholesterol, kidney and sugar diabetes.” He also says that other drugs like slimming pills and cocaine cause high blood pressure.


Dr Solomon says the most important thing to avoid is salt, especially when you are living

with high blood pressure and heart diseases. “The South African dietary guidelines say that people with hypertension or prehypertension limit their daily sodium intake. Members of the public need to be warned that high blood pressure is well documented and accepted as medical fact, and what is less widely known, is that South African foods are overloaded with salt,” he says. “Another concern is that most South Africans are not aware that high blood pressure is caused by discretionary salt they use – that is the amount of

salt they add to the food themselves.”


Many so-called “health foods” are high in sodium. Most of the salt in our diet is found in processed foods. Bread is the single highest contributor to the total salt intake of South

Africans. The World Health Organisation sees hypertension as a bigger health risk than smoking. A high-salt diet is a leading cause of high blood pressure and high blood pressure is the single most important risk factor for stroke. A reduction of salt intake by two grams per day reduces cardiovascular disease by 20 percent.