Blood pressure on the rise

19 March 2015 | Health

High blood pressure is a serious condition that is affecting and killing more and more Namibians.
Namibia’s Health Information System (HIS) statistics indicate that high blood pressure, or hypertension, mostly affects people 18 years and older. However, even children younger than five years can suffer from hypertension.


Taking Control


High blood pressure is a silent killer, often with no obvious or visible symptoms and the only way to find out if you have hypertension is through testing by your doctor, who will make the diagnosis on the basis of two or more readings taken on different visits. It is also advisable to go for regular checkups after you are diagnosed with the illness, as it will need constant monitoring.
A local medical practitioner, Dr Helen Nkandi-Shiimi, advised that in order for people to avoid high blood pressure, they should reduce their alcohol and salt intake. They should also avoid smoking and try to eat less fat and include more fibre in their diet.
“It is all about lifestyle and taking care of one’s body. High blood pressure is a serious condition that can lead to strokes and heart attacks and subsequently death.
“The most worrying thing is that it affects people of all ages and not only the elderly as was always believed. It is about what you put in your body, as well as lack of exercise,” she said.
She said people who have family members suffering from the condition should get regular check-ups because the condition is hereditary.


What Is High Blood Pressure?


Simply put, blood pressure is the force exerted by blood on the walls of the arteries and veins as it courses through the body. Like the ocean tide, it is normal for blood pressure to rise and fall throughout the day. Blood pressure is lowest when you are sleeping and rises when you awaken. But when the pressure stays elevated over time, it causes the heart to pump harder and work overtime, leading to serious health problems such as hardening of the arteries, stroke and brain haemorrhage, kidney failure and blindness.
Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers, the systolic (pressure during a heartbeat) over the diastolic (pressure between heartbeats). For example, a measurement of 120/80 millimetres of mercury (mmHg) is expressed as “120 over 80.” Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. People with pressures between 120/80 and 139/89 are considered to have pre-hypertension and are likely to develop high blood pressure without preventive measures.
Today, clinical guidelines recommend that physicians work with patients to keep their blood pressure below 140/90 and even lower for people with diabetes or kidney ailments.
While an individual’s blood pressure may be normal now, HIS indicates that 70% of Namibians over 55 years of age have a lifetime risk of high blood pressure and people should take action before being diagnosed with high blood pressure.


NAMENE HELMICH

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