Regular medical exams can prevent hypertension

Despite the fact that most people with high blood pressure don’t show any symptoms, it is said to be the cause of 40% of heart attacks and 50% of strokes.

Nikash Bagirathi, 38, took action and went to see his doctor when blood pressure readings from a Discovery Vitality health check performed in early 2021 showed they were higher than normal.

Nikash was shocked to learn he had high blood pressure (persistent, elevated blood pressure). “I took comfort in knowing I was with the right doctor and on the right medicine. Many people have chronic conditions that are well managed, and they are fine. I encourage people to make time and book a simple blood pressure check with a nurse or GP. The Test is cheap, non-invasive, and takes less than a minute. Plus, it can save your life,” he says.

The majority of those who have hypertension don’t show any symptoms. “Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart diseases, strokes, kidney disease, and even eye diseases. Most people don’t have any symptoms. That’s why hypertension is called a ‘silent killer,” says Dr Noluthando Nematswerani, head of the center for clinical excellence at Discovery Health.

She says that symptoms include headaches, shortness of breath, nausea, fainting, chest pain, heart palpitations, and nosebleeds. “Regular health checks are the only way to know if we are really healthy. High blood pressure develops over years with constant damage to the blood vessels which eventually results in a stroke or heart attack or being diagnosed with a serious illness such as kidney disease. Regular health screenings are the only way to make sure we catch the onset of life-threatening chronic illnesses as early as possible.”

According to a report from the World Health Organization, 1.28 billion persons between the ages of 30 and 79 have hypertension, with two-thirds of them residing in low- and middle-income nations. 46 percent of the population is unaware they have the illness. More than one-third of adults in South Africa, according to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of SA, have high blood pressure, which is linked to 40% of heart attacks and 50% of strokes.

Male clients are more likely to die from heart and artery diseases (13 percent of claims) and cancer than any other condition, according to Discovery Life’s 2021 claims data (11 percent of claims). Cancer (33 percent of claims) and heart and artery disorders (30 percent) are the two illnesses that impact males the most when it comes to serious illness claims.

“Every year, the number of Discovery Health Medical Scheme members diagnosed with hypertension increases,” says Nematswerani.

377,784 members registered for this disease in 2019. There were 405,000 registered members by 2021, up from 27,216 over the previous two years. Discovery Health Medical Scheme claims for the treatment of heart disease and circulatory conditions totaled R6.1 billion last year, an increase of 7% from claims paid out in 2020.

Managing your risk of high blood pressure by changing your lifestyle includes the following:

  • Age: Risk increases as you age. Keep up regular health screening checks.
  • Race: Risk is higher in people of African heritage, often developing at an earlier age than it does in Caucasian people. Keep up regular health screening checks.
  • Being overweight or obese: Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Physical inactivity: Exercise regularly, aiming for a minimum average of 20-30 minutes a day.
  • High-stress levels: Find healthy ways to relax and consciously deal with stress.
  • Smoking: Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raise your blood pressure, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls.
  • Excessive alcohol intake: Having more than two drinks a day ups risk. Avoid excessive alcohol.
  • Making unhealthy food choices: Eat plenty of low glycaemic index (GI) fruits and vegetables. Reduce caffeine, salt, fat, and sugar intake.
  • Certain chronic conditions (such as kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnoea) up your risk. Live healthily and screen regularly. Follow your doctor’s advice and take your medicine as prescribed.

In a clinic, a GP or nurse can swiftly and simply check your blood pressure. The upper arm is wrapped in a sphygmomanometer (a tool with a cuff). As the cuff is inflated to get a blood pressure reading, it becomes more restrictive.

Two digits, one “over” the other, are used to represent the measurement, such as 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), or “120 over 80.” Systolic pressure, the highest figure, represents the pressure in your arteries while your heart beats. Diastolic pressure, which is at its lowest, is the pressure experienced while your heart is at rest in between beats.

Blood pressure readings of 120/80 mmHg or less are considered normal. When both measurements, taken on two distinct days, are equal to or higher than 140/90 mmHg, such condition is known as hypertension. If your blood pressure reading is 180/120mmHg or above, you should seek emergency medical attention.

It is generally simple to treat hypertension if it is identified early enough. This is why Discovery Health advises everyone to attend general health screenings, where blood pressure readings and other crucial, quick, and easy tests will be performed, at least once a year. When you visit a physician or nurse, always take your blood pressure. Don’t pass up the chance to check quickly.

A slightly elevated blood pressure reading, such as 135 systolic, is not necessarily indicative of true hypertension, according to Professor Brian Rayner, Emeritus Professor in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at the University of Cape Town, but it is cause for concern and warrants monitoring. He advises people to begin making lifestyle adjustments to try to normalize their blood pressure because even modestly increased blood pressure can eventually proceed to high blood pressure.

Untreated high blood pressure, according to Rayner, can result in a number of consequences. Your body’s small blood capillaries to the kidney, the brain, and other organs are damaged by high blood pressure. It also hastens the development of plaque or atherosclerosis in your arteries (together with cholesterol and diabetes), he says.

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