‘Silent killer’ can be prevented and treated

Nearly half of men and women in the country suffer from high blood pressure. Though it is stigmatised as an adult disease, statistics include teenagers.

More people are exposed to unhealthy diets and lifestyles in today’s fast-paced world.

Load-shedding has resulted in a reduction in the number of households enjoying healthy home-cooked meals, with people choosing to grab a quick meal on the road that usually contains high levels of carbohydrates and saturated fats, among others.

Some people might experience irregular heart rhythms, nosebleeds or fatigue, but others might show no symptoms, and could suffer from hypertension without knowing it.

Deepak Patel, a clinical specialist at Discovery Vitality, explains that hypertension is a condition in which blood vessels are under constantly high pressure, also known as high blood pressure.

“A healthy blood pressure is 120/80mmHg (millimetres of mercury). If you have your blood pressure taken on three different days and all your readings are 140/90mmHg or higher, it is very likely that you have hypertension. The upshot of this is that your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your body,” said Patel.

He said regular visits to a general practitioner are important.

National HealthCare Group chief clinician Peter Makhambeni, said most people damage their health by grabbing fast food and being inactive. This is a trigger for hypertension.

“Many people are eating more processed foods and sugar, are sitting more and exercising less.

“This combination of factors is largely to blame for an increase in conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

“Most people are also not inclined to check on their healthcare status, until it is too late as some chronic conditions such as hypertension – known as the ‘silent killer’ – do not have obvious symptoms, which often means that people may either ignore them or are simply not aware of them.

“The fact is that most people are not sufficiently focused on practicing preventative healthcare, which can do a great deal to stem the tide of chronic diseases. The Covid-19 pandemic has unfortunately also caused disruptions in care that have in many instances delayed chronic disease diagnosis and management, resulting in severe illness for many.”

Makhambeni said avoiding hypertension requires simple lifestyle changes, such as staying active. A simple walk every now and then is a good start.

A change in diet is also important. This could mean adding beans, reducing salt and taking in healthy fats such as avocado.

Fruit and veggies are important, with less spices and oils during cooking.

“Many young people believe they cannot be at risk of chronic illnesses, however, research clearly indicates otherwise.

“While the benefits may not necessarily be felt immediately, a few lifestyle changes can prevent or reduce the risk of contracting a range of diseases, and this can have a truly lasting impact on overall health,” Makhambeni said.

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