Lifestyle changes can prevent and control hypertension

Hypertension is still the top chronic condition prevalent amongst its members says Fedhealth, with 15,42% of members suffering from hypertension.

As at March 2015, Fedhealth had 22 388 beneficiaries registered on chronic for hypertension making it by far the most prevalent chronic disorder within the scheme population, followed by high cholesterol. Significantly, hypertension is more than double the high cholesterol stats.

Peter Jordan, Principal Officer of Fedhealth notes hypertension is also the top chronic condition in terms of new chronic registrations on the scheme, with 90 new patients being diagnosed and registered in March 2015 alone. “This indicates the increased burden of disease that the scheme is sitting with and equates to just over R15 million spent in 2014.”

Jordan emphasises that these figures are conservative, as there are likely a number of undiagnosed members who are unaware that they even have hypertension and are therefore not contributing to these statistics. In fact it is estimated that 11 million South Africans live with hypertension and 3 in 4 people do not even know they have high blood pressure.

“Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ as people can have the condition for years without knowing it,” says Peter Jordan, Principal Officer of Fedhealth.  “Hypertension refers to the force of blood pressing against your arteries. When it is too high, it raises the hearts workload and can cause serious damage to the arteries. Over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney dysfunction,” he explains.

Who is affected?

As we get older, more and more of us will develop hypertension or high blood pressure.  Up to the age of 45, more men have high blood pressure than women. However, as the decades increase more and more women start to suffer from this disease.  You have a greater risk if a family member has high blood pressure or if you are a diabetic – about 60% of people with diabetes have high blood pressure.

Jordan urges everyone to know their blood pressure numbers, even if they are in seemingly good health, as early treatment may prevent severe related complications such as a heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.

“Adopting a healthier lifestyle can also help to maintain an acceptable and healthy blood pressure range,” he adds. “Changing your lifestyle can help you to prevent and control high blood pressure.”

Hints on how to beat hypertension:

  • Eat healthy foods. Fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy foods are a great start. Try to get plenty of potassium as this helps to control your blood pressure. Eat less saturated and total fat and add foods rich in nitrates such as beetroot, fennel, cabbage, lettuce, radishes and carrots.
  • Decrease your salt intake. Put down the salt shaker and pay attention to the amount of salt in processed foods such as canned soups or frozen dinners. Try cut down your salt to no more than 1 teaspoon per day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing even 2,3 kilograms, can lower your blood pressure.
  • Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men.
  • Reduce stress as much as possible. Practise coping techniques such as muscle relaxation and deep breathing and get plenty of sleep.
  • Quit smoking. Tobacco injures blood vessel walls and speeds up the process of hardening of the arteries.
  • Last but not least, make sure you monitor your blood pressure frequently.