24 April 2014

Hypertension – silent, but potentially deadly

Metabolic Syndrome includes a number of chronic lifestyle diseases, hypertension or high blood pressure being just one.

Known as the ‘silent killer’ because it often has no symptoms, high blood pressure or hypertension if left untreated, can damage your brain, kidneys, eyes, heart and arteries over time and lead to coronary artery disease, kidney failure or even a stroke. Treatment is essential to prevent serious health problems in the future.  

What is high blood pressure ?
The South African blood pressure guidelines indicate that blood pressure equal to, or more than, 140/90 mmHg can be considered to be ‘high blood pressure’. However, for people with other cardiovascular risk factors, a cut-off of 130/80 mmHg may be more appropriate.

What causes high blood pressure ?

Essential hypertension

Most high blood pressure is what is known as ‘essential hypertension’, called this because in about 95% of cases the exact cause in not known, although there are some recognised risk factors:

•Genetics - a family history of high blood pressure
•Gender – men are more likely to be affected than women
•Race – black people are twice as likely as white people to have high blood pressure, although after the age of 45 the gap narrows
•Ageing – it is a natural consequence of getting older
•Smoking – smokers are far more likely to have high blood pressure
•Lack of essential minerals –  calcium, magnesium and potassium deficiencies
•Lifestyle-related causes including:
•oBeing overweight or obese  
•Lack of exercise
•Too much salt in the diet
•Excessive alcohol consumption (more than one to two drinks per day)
•Emotional stress

Secondary hypertension

If there is an identified cause of high blood pressure, it is referred to as secondary hypertension to distinguish it from essential hypertension. Of all of the known causes of secondary hypertension, chronic kidney disease is probably the most common cause. Other causes include diseases related to the adrenal and thyroid glands, as well as some medications such as birth control pills and medicines that constrict blood vessels.
How is high blood pressure prevented and treated?

Lifestyle changes

Treatment and prevention of high blood pressure can be achieved in a number of ways, but lifestyle modification should always be the first option:

•Smoking cessation
•Weight loss
•Blood sugar control
•Eliminating insulin resistance
•Eliminating sugar and refined carbohydrates from the diet, and limiting salt intake
•Increasing exercise
•Improving the quality of sleep
•Managing emotional stress


There are a number of effective prescription medications available to assist in the treatment of high blood pressure, but adverse side effects associated with these medicines are common.

As oxidative stress, inflammation and autoimmune dysfunction all play a role in causing high blood pressure there is also a significant role for the selective use of evidence-based nutraceutical supplements, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. These should be used to complement optimal nutrition in the prevention and treatment of hypertension.

Beneficial supplements include Omega-3 fatty acids, Co-enzyme Q10, N-acetyl cysteine, L-carnitine, Vitamin D3, Vitamin C and Vitamin B6. These should only be taken under the guidance of a healthcare professional or pharmacist.

Prevention better than cure

With common diseases, including: obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high blood fats and low ‘good’ cholesterol, it is better to identify the disease, or your risks early in order to begin treatment or prevention. For all of the lifestyle-related diseases associated with Metabolic Syndrome, making lifestyle changes can significantly improve your health and quality of life.

If you feel you may have Metabolic Syndrome, and/or you would like help to lose weight and improve your health risk profile, visit a Dis-Chem pharmacy, get tested and get help.

Read more: Met-S Care works with Dis-Chem Pharmacies to empower people living with Metabolic Syndrome to take control of their condition.


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