- Hypertension is a condition that occurs because of elevated blood pressure.
- The disease is referred to as a silent killer because it is highly underrated and often goes unchecked.
- Obesity and high sodium intake are factors that increase the risk of getting hypertension.
- Black women in South Africa are disproportionately affected by obesity, which puts them at risk of hypertension.
Hypertension affects twice as many women as men and this has doubled since 1998 from 25 percent to 46 percent, according to the 2016 South African Demographic and Health Survey.
Hypertension is a condition that occurs as a result of elevated blood pressure. It is a silent killer because it rarely exhibits symptoms and, therefore, often goes undetected and untreated. This increases one’s chances of heart attack, stroke or heart failure.
Factors that increase the risk of hypertension include family history, obesity and excessively drinking too much alcohol, among others.
However, according to a 2019 study done by Wits University's Merling Phaswana, lifestyle factors such as sedentary behaviour, physical inactivity, high salt intake, smoking, family history, and unhealthy diet are responsible for the development of hypertension in black Africans, particularly in adult women.
She also notes that black women in South Africa are disproportionately affected by obesity, a fact that is also observed in most countries African countries and middle-income countries, making them at risk of hypertension.
In her study, Merling sites a study that revealed 78 South African women die every day due to the high rates of hypertension.
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Nicole Jennings, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics – South Africa’s leading provider of cardiovascular medicine, encourages the public to get themselves tested and educated about the risks of the disease.”
She adds that hypertension can lead to a series of health conditions such as heart attacks, heart failure, strokes, heart failure, kidney disease, metabolic syndrome, memory loss and even dementia.
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Nicole says hypertension is a debilitating disease, which affects many South African adults, however, because it develops slowly over time, many don’t realise they have it until it is too late.
“While the condition cannot be cured, it can be effectively managed through lifestyle changes and medication”, she says.
She recommends the following lifestyle changes:
- Half an hour of exercise five to seven days a week
- Maintaining a healthy body mass index
- Eating a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables
- Limiting salt intake to 5g (one level teaspoon) per day or less
- Reducing alcohol intake
- Quitting smoking
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