What is Hypertension and What Can We Do to Prevent and Manage It?

According to the WHO Hypertension, also known as high or raised blood pressure, is a condition in which the blood vessels have persistently raised pressure. Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of the body in the vessels. Each time the heart beats, it pumps blood into the vessels. Blood pressure is created by the force of blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels (arteries) as it is pumped by the heart. The higher the pressure the harder the heart has to pump. Normal adult blood pressure is defined as a blood pressure of 120 mmHg when the heart beats (systolic) and a blood pressure of 80 mmHg when the heart relaxes (diastolic). When systolic blood pressure is equal to or above 140 mmHg and/or a diastolic blood pressure equal to or above 90 mm Hg the blood pressure is considered to be raised or high. One in three adults worldwide has high blood pressure. The proportion increases with age, from 1 in 10 people in their 20s and 30s to 5 in 10 people in their 50s. Prevalence of high blood pressure is highest in some low-income countries in Africa, with over 40% of adults in many African countries thought to be affected.

Symptoms of Hypertension could include severe headache; fatigue or confusion; vision problems; chest pain; difficulty breathing; irregular heartbeat; blood in the urine; or pounding in your chest, neck or ears. Take note though that one may experience no symptoms at all and suffer from Hypertension and this is why it is also known as the ‘Silent killer’. For this reason, all adults should be aware of their blood pressure readings and have these checked on a regular basis.

What is the danger of Hypertension? If left uncontrolled, hypertension can lead to a heart attack and possibly even heart failure. Blood vessels may develop aneurysms (bulges) and weak spots that make them more likely to clog and burst. The pressure in the blood vessels can cause blood to leak out into the brain and cause a stroke. Hypertension can also lead to kidney failure, blindness as well as cognitive impairment.

Underlying factors that increase or are associated with high blood pressure include:

Non-modifiable factors

Modifiable factors

Age

Genetic predisposition

Family history

Susceptible ethnic origin

Dark skin colour

Low birthweight

Overweight and obesity

Excess visceral (abdominal) fat

Excess salt intake

Low potassium intake, low folic-acid intake

Unhealthy diet, particularly excess calories, fats, and fructose

Excess alcohol

Sedentary occupation; Reduced physical activity

Psychological stress

Urban living

Smoking

How can Hypertension be prevented and treated?

Although we cannot influence the above non-modifiable risk factors, we can manage our modifiable risk factors in the prevention as well as management of Hypertension. Take note that for some people, lifestyle changes are sufficient to control blood pressure such as stopping tobacco use, eating healthily, exercising regularly and avoiding the harmful use of alcohol. Reduction in salt intake can help. For others, these changes are insufficient and they need prescription medication to control blood pressure.

Everyone can take FIVE concrete steps to minimize the odds of developing high blood pressure and its adverse consequences.

  1. Healthy diet:

    • promoting a healthy lifestyle with emphasis on proper nutrition for infants and young people;

    • reducing salt intake to less than 5 g of salt per day (just under a teaspoon) or less than 2400mg of sodium per day by using flavour alternatives (lemon juice, olive oil, pepper, curry powder, herbs, garlic, etc) and limiting packet soups, sauces, spices and processed/tinned meats, etc;

    • eating a balanced diet- follow the principles of the DASH diet (emphasizing low sodium intake and higher consumption of low-fat milk and dairy products, fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and poultry);

    • reducing saturated and total fat intake.

  1. Avoiding harmful use of alcohol i.e. limit intake to no more than one standard drink a day

  2. Physical activity:

    • regular physical activity and promotion of physical activity for children and young people (at least 30 minutes a day).

      maintaining a normal weight: every 5 kg of excess weight lost can reduce systolic blood pressure by 2 to 10 points.

  1. Stopping tobacco use and exposure to tobacco products

  2. Managing stress in healthy way such as through meditation, appropriate physical exercise, and positive social activities

FUTURELIFE® is a great component of a balanced diet and with its low GI alongside regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy body weight. Mixing FUTURELIFE® with low fat milk will provide additional Potassium, Magnesium and Calcium, these 3 minerals working together have shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. South Africa is moving in leaps and bounds to help reduce the intake of Sodium in its’ population by implementing the Department of Health’s latest regulations, FUTURELIFE® can proudly say that all their products already meet the 2016 as well as 2019 sodium reduction guidelines and our FUTURELIFE® ZERO also bares the Heart Mark.