Updated 07 July 2014

13 high blood pressure facts

High blood pressure can quietly damage your body for years before symptoms develop, causing damage to your arteries, heart, brain, kidneys, eyes, even sexual dysfunction. Here are 13 important facts you should know.

  • Globally, 9.4 million people die every year and 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer because of high blood pressure or hypertension. It is the biggest single risk factor for death worldwide causing heart disease, stroke and kidney disease and diabetes.
  • Hypertension affects approximately 6.3 million South Africans. About 130 heart attacks and 240 strokes occur daily in South Africa. This means that 10 people will suffer a stroke and five people will have a heart attack every hour.

  • Hypertension affects 1 in every 5 adults, and is one of the leading causes of morbidity and death in adults over the age of 50/55.3.

  • In the World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa region up to 50% of adults in many countries are estimated to have high blood pressure and this proportion is increasing.

  • Normal adult blood pressure is defined as a blood pressure of 120mm Hg when the heart beats (systolic) and a blood pressure of 80 mm Hg when the heart rests (diastolic). When the systolic blood pressure is equal to, or above 140 mm Hg and/or a diastolic blood pressure equal to or above 90 mm Hg the blood pressure is considered to be raised or high.

  • Hypertension/High Blood Pressure is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure is elevated. Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of the body in the vessels. Each time the heart beats, it pumps blood into the vessels. Blood pressure is created by the force of blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels (arteries) as it is pumped by the heart. The higher the pressure the harder the heart has to pump.

  • Many people have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Most of the time, there are no symptoms, but when high blood pressure goes untreated, it damages arteries and vital organs throughout the body. That’s why high blood pressure is often called the “silent killer”.

  • Sometimes hypertension causes symptoms such as headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, palpitations of the heart and nose bleed. However, most people with hypertension have no symptoms at all.

  • Every adult over 18 years of age should have routine blood pressure check-ups. All adults should have blood pressure checks at least once a year, especially if they have stressful occupations or a family history of hypertension.

  • People with high blood pressure who also have high blood sugar levels or elevated blood cholesterol, face even higher risk of heart attacks and stroke. Therefore it is important that regular checks for blood sugar, blood cholesterol and urine albumin take place.

  • High blood pressure (hypertension) can quietly damage your body for years before symptoms develop, causing damage to your arteries, heart, brain, kidneys, eyes, even sexual dysfunction.

  • Suffering from high blood pressure is not an automatic death sentence. It can be managed by following these steps: rigorously maintain a healthy weight, stay physically active, follow a healthy food plan with foods lower in sodium and salt, drink in moderation and take high blood pressure medication if it has been prescribed to you.

  • The remarkable advances in therapy have provided the newfound capability for lowering blood pressure in almost every person with hypertension. Treatment with medication has shown a 30-45% reduction in stroke, a 20-25% reduction in heart attack and a more than 50% reduction in heart failure.
Novartis South Africa press release

(Photo of heart pressure from Shutterstock)


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Hypertension expert

Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

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