Updated 15 May 2018

Need to know: Hypertension Consumer Fact Sheet

Sponsored: Tell your parents and loved ones that hypertension can lead to heart disease and stroke.


Consumer Fact Sheet

1. Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, occurs when the body’s blood vessels are persistently put under increased pressure. The only way to know if you are affected by hypertension is to have your blood pressure checked regularly.

2. People may develop hypertension because it runs in their family or due to lifestyle habits, such as harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity, being overweight, consuming too much salt, or experiencing high levels of stress.

3. Hypertension is the leading cause of mortality.1 It’s also the main risk factor for cardiovascular or heart disease and stroke. By detecting hypertension early, you can help minimise its effects.

4. Hypertension affects more than 40% of adults over the age of 25, worldwide.

5. More than 6.2 million South Africans have blood pressure (higher than 140/90 mm Hg), and more than 3.2 million of these have blood pressure higher than 160/95 mm Hg, a level, which is unacceptably high, according to researchers. An estimated 53 men and 78 women die in South Africa each day from the impact of hypertension.3

6. Hypertension is a silent, invisible disease that rarely causes symptoms. That's why it is important for everyone to have their blood pressure checked.1 Many people with hypertension may not even know they have it. Up to half of people with high blood pressure may be undiagnosed. That means that they could suffer the consequences of hypertension – and even death – without ever having been diagnosed.

7. A blood pressure test is simple, non-invasive and takes only a few minutes. However, tests are usually done by a healthcare professional, who uses an electronic device that is strapped to the upper arm. The cuff or band squeezes the arm for several seconds, cutting off the blood flow, and then releases.

It is important that some simple rules are followed when checking for hypertension: sitting calmly, feet flat on floor, not having eaten in the past hour etc. A healthcare professional is best qualified to do the reading correctly.

8. Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers: systolic (upper number) and diastolic (lower number). Diastolic blood pressure is when the pressure is at its lowest, while the heart is resting between beats. Hypertension is traditionally defined as systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure more than or equal to 140/90 mm Hg. In most cases, the higher the blood pressure, the stronger the likelihood of serious consequences for the heart, brain or kidneys. 

9. Ideally, you should have your blood pressure checked every year. If hypertension is detected early, it is possible to minimise the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney failure. 

10. Treatment should be individualised for each person. It is important to talk to a healthcare professional about hypertension to try to control blood pressure and restore it to healthy levels. Effective medications exist that can help control blood pressure and prevent complications.

Lack of adherence to medications can be a cause of one out of 10 cardiovascular events, so it is important that patients take their medication correctly and are closely monitored by their healthcare professionals. When medication is taken correctly, it can offer proven levels of cardiovascular protection.2

11. The #BecauseIsayso campaign aims to encourage young adults to start the conversation about hypertension with their parents and other older members of their families. We want to promote a close and healthy family situation where everyone can give each other advice for their own good. The idea is that grown up children have a responsibility to tell their parents what they need to do for their own good – to get their blood pressure checked – because they care about their parents.

12. As part of the campaign, the Southern African Hypertension Society is having several special screenings at the following venues:

Wits University
16 May                 11:00-13:00          Education campus              Bohlaneng Concourse

17 May                 08:00-12:00          Main Campus (West)         Chamber of Mines Concourse

19 May                 09:00-15:00          Bryanston Organic Market

23 May                 11:00-13:00          Education campus              Bohlaneng Concourse

11 July                 11:00-13:00          Education campus              Bohlaneng Concourse

12 July                 08:00-12:00          Main Campus (West)         Chamber of Mines Concourse

25 July                 11:00-13:00          Medical School                  Adler Museum Foyer

26 July                 08:00-12:00          Main Campus (West)         Chamber of Mines Concourse

2 August               08:00-12:00          Main Campus (East)          Chamber of Mines Concourse

15 August             11:00-13:00          Education Campus             Bohlaneng Concourse

22 August             11:00-13:00          Medical School                   Adler Museum Foyer

23rd August         08:00-12:00          Main Campus (East)          Solomon Mahlangu House, Concourse 

North-West University Potchefstroom campus
14 – 16 May                                      Lovers Lane                      


Ikageng Mall

17 May                                             Amphi Theatre 

Walter Sisulu University, Mthatha
1 – 18 May                                        BT Ngebs Shopping Centre Mthatha (Thursdays to Saturdays)

19 – 31 May                                      BT Ngebs Shopping Centre Mthatha (daily) 

7 – 31 May           08:00                    Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens (daily except Sunday) 

19 May                 10:00-16:00          Ga-Mogoboya, Thlabine, Facility Sports Ground, Tzaneen

1 – 31 May - Groote Schuur Hospital

13. The World Hypertension League (WHL) is celebrating World Hypertension Day on 17 May 2018. The theme is ‘Know Your Numbers’ with the goal of increasing high blood pressure (BP) awareness in all populations around the world. 

14. The WHL, in conjunction with the International Society of Hypertension (ISH), will also promote May Measurement Month (MMM). This is a global awareness campaign led by the International Society of Hypertension (ISH), which represents the world’s leading scientists, clinicians, health care providers and allied health care workers, all with a common interest in hypertension (high blood pressure) research.

MMM puts the spotlight on increasing access to blood pressure screening as potentially the most effective way to reduce hypertension’s adverse effects on health. Ask your healthcare professional for more information about the disease and how to get your blood pressure checked. For more information, visit #BecauseIsayso

References1 Poulter N et al. Lancet. 2015;386(9995):801-812.2 World Health Organisation. A global brief on hypertension silent killer, public health crisis. WHO 20133 Health24. [Internet]. What is the prevalence of hypertension? [updated: 8 Feb 2018; cited 24 Apr 2018]. Available from: https://www.health24.com/Medical/Hypertension/Faqs/What-is-the-prevalence-of-hypertension-20130205 4 Chow CK, et al. Prevalence, awareness, treatment, and control of hypertension in rural and urban communities in high-, middle-, and low-income countries. JAMA 2013;310:959-68.


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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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