Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe
Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is a serious condition that can lead to cardiac arrest or heart attack, stroke, heart, kidney failure, blindness and more. South Africa has one of the highest rates of hypertension worldwide, with an estimated 6.3 million people known to be currently living with the condition – that’s one in three SA adults.
Increasing the severity of the situation is the fact that many more people remain undiagnosed, hence it can be assumed that the true number may be significantly higher. It is important to check your blood pressure regularly, especially if there is a positive family history, Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries.
The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. You can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms. Even without symptoms, damage to blood vessels and your heart continues, and can be detected.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.
Although high blood pressure is most common in adults, children may be at risk, too. For some children, high blood pressure is caused by problems with the kidneys or heart. But for a growing number of kids, poor lifestyle habits – an unhealthy diet, obesity and lack of exercise – contribute.
Most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. A few may have headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds, but these signs aren’t specific and usually don’t occur until blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage. If you have persistent unexplained headache, it might be worth getting your blood pressure checked, since none of the symptoms are specific to the condition.
The following factors increase the risk of one developing hypertension:
It is largely a disease of poor lifestyle choices that can be better managed using diet and changes. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80, pre-hypertension is 120/80 to 139/89, stage 1 hypertension is 140/90 to 159/99, and stage 2 hypertension is above 160/100. By addressing underlying issues with diet, and lifestyle changes, you may be able to reduce your blood pressure without resorting to drug treatment.
One of the most important contributors is high blood sugar and insulin resistance, which should be primary targets for dietary intervention. Cutting out beverages with high sugar content should be the first step in any hypertension treatment, and can also help with shedding excess weight and reducing high blood sugar.
A reduction in carbohydrate consumption has been more effective in lowering blood pressure than eating a low-fat diet. Reducing your carbohydrate intake to less than 100 grams per day will reduce your blood pressure by a variety of mechanisms. It will reduce insulin resistance, thus activation of the sympathetic nervous system, cause blood vessel relaxation and dilation by increasing the production of nitric oxide and reverse the abnormal sodium retention. Additionally, it will reduce the amount of fat you have deposited within your abdominal cavity.
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About the author:
Dr Dulcy holds a MBBCH degree from Wits University, a diploma in occupational health, a diploma in HIV management, travel medicine diploma, a masters of science in sports medicine, and a masters in business administration degree from GIBS.
As the 2016 Social Entrepreneurship Regional Business Achiever award winner for Business Women’s Association, she started Accessible Quality Healthservices (AQH) in 2013 after being a general practitioner in Vryburg then Carletonville for 11 years.
Dr Dulcy said her life’s purpose was to make an impact on how healthcare was delivered in this country, especially to the poor.
*Always consult your health-care provider for all health matters relating to you and your children.
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