17 May is World Hypertension Day and the theme this year is ‘Know your Numbers’.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) together with the National Department of Health would like to challenge every person to know their blood pressure. The HSFSA joins forces with the World Hypertension League to test more than 3 million people’s blood pressures globally during the week of 17-24 May 2016.
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, which is no surprise given that roughly 1 in 4 adults globally suffer from it1. Uncontrolled blood pressures cause strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, dementia, kidney failure and blindness.
In South Africa
The picture is much worse in South Africa where studies report prevalence figures between 35 percent and 80 percent, depending on age group. A study in March this year reported hypertension in 55 percent of participants aged between 35 and 74 years in four rural South African communities. This was the highest prevalence recorded among the nine lower-middle income countries studied across Asia, Latin America and Africa2. Another recent study in October 2015 reported a prevalence of 41 percent in 1 000 adults with a mean age of only 44 years in Limpopo3.
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. This is well illustrated by a recent survey among students at Walter Sisulu University. Despite a mean age of only 22 years, 40 percent of students already had pre-hypertension, and six percent were classified as hypertensive4. This highlights the fact that high blood pressure is starting at a younger age.
The impact of high blood pressure in South Africa is staggering: blood pressure is responsible for half of all strokes, 40 percent of heart attacks and 60 perent of kidney disease5.
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. The problem is that, although hypertension is so prevalent, the portion of people who have been diagnosed is far less. In South Africa, only 50 percent 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.
Even among people that are aware of their raised blood pressure, only a portion is on medication, and of those on medication not all achieve control of their high blood pressure. This means less than one quarter of people with high blood pressure are actually achieving adequate control2. Uncontrolled blood pressure results in strokes, heart failure, heart attacks, and kidney failure.
“We have to address blood pressure from the top down, starting with improved diagnosis in people unknowingly suffering from this silent disease. This is what World Hypertension day is all about”, says Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, chief executive officer of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa.
Join the global movement to test three million people this week!
Two years ago the World Hypertension league aimed to test 200 000 blood pressures across the globe during the week and succeeded. Last year this was increased to over two million people. This year the goal is to test three million blood pressures worldwide during the week of World Hypertension Day – 17-24 May. And we need all the help we can get!
The National Department of Health is increasing efforts to screen and treat lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. Together with them we hope to encourage everyone to ‘know their numbers’ and have a blood pressure screening at least once a year.
Prof. Melvyn Freeman, chief director, non-communicable diseases, Department of Health, says: “South Africans, old and young, need to know their blood pressure. We would like to invite all individuals over 18 years to go to their nearest clinic and have their blood pressure tested. Bring family members and friends along and let us look out for each other this World Hypertension Day. Let us exceed the three million target!”
Members of the public can also head to their doctors or pharmacies to have their blood pressure tested. For many, screening and finding out their risk is only the beginning, but it could be the step that saves a life.
The HSFSA will be hosting free blood pressure screenings and more details are available on our website. We also want to thank other organisations like Project Hope in Gauteng who have already joined the campaign and are screening blood pressure in communities including Zandspruit, Honeydew and across the West Rand. Any other organisation that would like to help meet the 3 million target can contact the HSFSA on 021 422 1586 for more information.
About the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) plays a leading role in the fight against preventable heart disease and stroke, with the aim of seeing fewer people in South Africa suffer premature deaths and disabilities. The HSF, established in 1980 is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation.
The HSFSA aims to reduce the cardiovascular disease (CVD) burden in South Africa and ultimately on the health care system of South Africa. Our mission is to empower people in South Africa to adopt healthy lifestyles, make healthy choices easier, seek appropriate care and encourage prevention.
For more information contact:
- Global Health Risks: Mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks, WHO 2009
- Hypertension Prevalence, Awareness, Treatment, and Control in Selected LMIC Communities
- Prevalence and associated risk factors of hypertension amongst adults in a rural community of Limpopo Province, South Africa
- Association of waist and hip circumferences with the presence of hypertension and prehypertension in young South African adults
- Estimating the burden of disease attributable to high blood pressure in South Africa in 2000
For more about the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, refer to www.heartfoundation.co.za.
To view other NGO press releases, refer to www.ngopulse.org/press-releases.