World Hypertension Day – know your numbers


World Hypertension Day is marked this week with the theme this year being “Know your Numbers”.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) together with the national Department of Health are challenging everyone to know their blood pressure. The HSFSA is joining forces with the World Hypertension League to test more than 3 million people’s blood pressures globally during the week of Tuesday May 17 (World Hypertension Day) to Tuesday May 24.

Hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, is the most common chronic ailment of our generation. An ideal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg and is easily tested with a blood pressure cuff.

The World Health Organisation rates blood pressure as the leading risk factor for global mortality and disability.

Uncontrolled blood pressures cause strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, dementia, kidney failure and blindness.

In South Africa where studies report prevalence figures between 35% and 80%, depending on age group.

A study in March this year reported hypertension in 55% of participants aged between 35 and 74 years in four rural South African communities. Another recent study in October last year reported a prevalence of 41% in 1 000 adults with a mean age of only 44 years in Limpopo.

In many ways South Africa is experiencing a perfect storm of hypertension. Our unique risk profile includes increasingly “Western” eating habits, decreasing levels of activity, low levels of diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, prevalent alcohol abuse, increasing obesity, malnutrition predisposing children to chronic diseases later in life, and genetic predisposition to high blood pressure. The impact of high blood pressure in South Africa is staggering. Blood pressure is responsible for half of all strokes, 40% of heart attacks and 60% of kidney disease.

How can we beat high blood pressure?

In most cases high blood pressure can be effectively controlled by a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. In South Africa, only 50% of people with hypertension know that their blood pressure is high. This is partly because there are usually no symptoms and individuals don’t have their blood pressure checked on a regular basis.

The National Department of Health is increasing efforts to screen and treat lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. Together with the department, HSFSA hopes to encourage everyone to “know their numbers” and have a blood pressure screening at least once a year.

Professor Melvyn Freeman, chief director, Non-communicable Diseases, national De-partment of Health says: all individuals over 18 years should to go to their nearest clinic and have their blood pressure tested.”

The HSFSA will be hosting free blood pressure screenings – details are available on their website at

* For details contact HSFSA on 021 422 1586.