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    • 15 MAR 21
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    High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most serious risks factors for death from heart diseases and strokes, responsible for 13% of all deaths globally. In South Africa more than 1 in 3 adults live with high blood pressure and it is responsible for 1 in every 2 strokes and 2 in every 5 heart attacks. High blood pressure is known as a ‘silent killer’ because there are rarely any symptoms or visible signs to warn that blood pressure is high. That is why more than 50% of people with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition. In some cases, typically with very high blood pressure, symptoms such as headaches, visual disturbances, nose bleeds, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing and sleepiness may be experienced. Do not wait for symptoms to appear. High blood pressure becomes more likely with older age, but anyone, no matter their age, gender, fitness level or lifestyle can develop high blood pressure. Blood pressure should be measured at least once every year, so don’t delay!

    What does a blood pressure reading mean?

    A blood pressure measurement is recorded as two numbers: systolic and diastolic. Systolic blood pressure (SBP) indicates the pressure when the heart contracts, and therefore the pressure is always higher. The diastolic blood pressure (DBP) indicates pressure when the heart is resting between beats. A blood pressure measurement is expressed as one figure “over” another, for example, 140/90 mm Hg (SBP/DBP). High blood pressure is diagnosed when EITHER OR BOTH of these values are persistently raised on more than one occasion, when measured correctly.

    A guide to blood pressure reading

    bp readings


    How to manage high blood pressure

    If blood pressure is slightly higher than normal, a further increase in blood pressure can be prevented. If blood pressure is already high it can be improved by making lifestyle changes and by taking blood pressure medication. A doctor can advise whether someone needs to start medication immediately or if they should first make lifestyle improvements only, based on their other lifestyle risk factors and medical history. Once someone starts blood pressure medication it is usually permanent, and medication should be taken regularly for it to work well. Sometimes one medication is not sufficient and a second or third medication needs to be added. Making lifestyle changes along with medication is important to achieve the best possible results.

    For more advice, contact The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa on 021 422 1586 or email


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