Jul 5, 2021 | Health

Hypertension – Pressure point

Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
Hypertension typically develops over the course of several years and, if left untreated, can cause serious health complications. Yet it can be controlled and there are ways to reduce its associated health risks.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure (BP) is the force exerted by circulating blood against the walls of the arteries – the major blood vessels – as the heart pumps it around the body. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, occurs when force of that pressure in the vessels is too great and forces the heart’s muscles to pump harder and more frequently than it should.
It’s also known as a ‘silent killer’ – a person with hypertension may not show any obvious symptoms. Blood pressure is considered high when the systolic measurement – the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart contracts or beats – is >140 mm Hg, and the diastolic pressure value (when the heart relaxes between the beats) is >90 mm Hg.

How does Covid-19 affect hypertension?

dying as a result of the coronavirus Covid-19* compared to those without hypertension, and patients not taking their medication to control their BP are more at risk, according to the European Heart Journal. In a retrospective observational study, researchers found that 34 out of 850 people (4%) with high blood pressure died of Covid-19 compared to 22 out of 2027 patients (1.1%) with normal blood pressure. In addition, among the patients who didn’t take medication, Source: American Heart Association, 2017 7.9% died after contracting Covid-19, compared to the 3.2% fatalities in those who did take medication.
*Source: healthcare-in-europe.com

The dangers of a high salt intake

Too much salt in your diet increases blood pressure. High BP causes damage to the blood vessels, which can lead to a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and blindness. The increased workload can also weaken the heart and lead to heart failure. Tiredness, shortness of breath and swollen ankles are often experienced.

Blood pressure should be checked regularly, or as recommended by your doctor.

How to keep your BP in check

Eat a nutritious, balanced diet.

A group of doctors, dietitians and nutrition scientists have specifically designed the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Diet (DASH) diet to assist those who suffer from high BP. DASH bemphasises consumption of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts, and limits sugary drinks, sweets and red meat.

Cut back on your sodium intake.

Reduce the salt added to food during cooking and at the table. Processed foods are very high in salt, so should be avoided or used sparingly. There is no recommended form of salt for hypertensive patients. The maximum permissible intake of salt – from all sources – for patients is 5g (about one teaspoon) per day.

Get active.

Regular exercise – such as 150 minutes a week, or about 30 minutes on most days of the week – can lower your BP as well as help reduce stress.

Avoid smoking

Smoking causes an immediate increase in your blood pressure and stopping smoking will help your blood pressure return to normal.

Know your numbers.

Blood pressure should be checked regularly, or as recommended by your doctor – keep a log of your readings handy for your next appointment.
High blood pressure is known as a ‘silent killer’ – a person with hypertension may not show any obvious symptoms.

Choose a healthy diet

Make it a lasting lifestyle choice – a heart-healthy approach will include:

a variety of fruits and vegetables.

whole grains (instead of refined starches), such as wholewheat bread, oats and brown rice. High-fibre foods help to lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease.
healthier protein options, such as eggs, tinned fish, skinless chicken, lean meat and plant proteins such as chickpeas, lentils and beans.
healthy fats, which include olive oil, peanut oil, avocados, nuts, flaxseed and fatty fish. Fatty fish contains essential omega-3 oils that reduce blood pressure as well as the risk of stroke.

Apart from reducing your salt intake, avoid foods with added sugar and bad fats too:

steer clear of sugary drinks.

A diet that is high in refined carbohydrates – found in sweet beverages and foods – raises triglycerides (blood fats), lowers ‘good’ cholesterol and increases ‘bad’ cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol because it blocks your blood vessels and increases your risk for heart disease. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is considered ‘good’ cholesterol because it helps protect you from heart disease. The higher your HDL, the better.

Cut down on unhealthy fats

like saturated and trans fats – found in foods such as fatty and processed meats, and fast and deep-fried foods – which can raise bad cholesterol levels

Remember to look out for the Heart Mark on your next store visit. The Heart Mark programme was established by the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa to help consumers identify healthier foods in an effort to raise awareness about lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity. www.heartfoundation.co.za