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Hypertension a ‘silent killer’

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Africa is the epicentre of hypertension.

In the past decade, this continent has seen an increase of more than 30% in rates of high blood pressure.

According to the latest South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 48,7% of South Africans living with hypertension are unscreened, 23,1% are screened but undiagnosed, 5,8% are diagnosed but untreated, 13,5% are treated but uncontrolled and 8,9% are controlled.

Hypertension, the single biggest cause of premature death globally, affects an estimated 31% of men and 36% of women in South Africa.

In order to highlight the dangers of this disease, a heart and stroke awareness campaign was implemented on 29 September.

The campaign urges members of the public to have their blood pressure checked on a regular basis.

This can be done at most pharmacies, clinics and medical practices.

According to Nicole Jennings, spokesperson for the pharmaceutical company Pharma Dynamics, hypertension is known as the silent killer. Typically, this disease shows no symptoms until it is too late.

“Every day, 215 people die from heart disease or stroke – diseases which are primarily caused by uncontrolled hypertension.

“High blood pressure is often detected too late, when significant damage has already been done to the heart and arteries.”

One of the biggest contributing factors to the lack of diagnosis is people’s unwillingness or inability to put in the time and money to travel to health facilities.

Where a diagnosis is made and medication is prescribed, many fail to take their medicine on a regular basis.

She pointed out that women are more likely to be screened and treated for high blood pressure than men.

“More and more South Africans living with hypertension are undiagnosed,” she said.

According to Jennings, factors contributing to the rising prevalence of hypertension include urbanisation, an ageing population and a substantial increase in behavioural risk factors like alcohol consumption, smoking, an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

She believes long-term hypertension detection and management programmes are necessary to combat the lack of hypertension care in South Africa.

Women are more likely to be screened and

treated for high blood pressure

than men

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