Healthy eating habits and exercise help to keep high blood pressure under control. This is what Anna Modika, from Mokgoloboto Village, Limpopo, who has been battling hypertension for 21 years, learned when she first became aware of her condition.
While the exact cause of the condition is not known, various things including obesity, family history, poor diet and lack of exercise increase the risk of developing hypertension.
Modika says she remembers well when she learned she had this life-changing condition in 1997.
“It was tough for me. I had to change my lifestyle to suit the condition. You must understand that I grew up eating salty food, fried meat and all that is deemed unhealthy. Exercising was not part of my life, and now I had to stop eating those things and start exercising for me to live longer,” she said.
Hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure, a condition where the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high, and people with hypertension are at higher risk of developing other illnesses including, kidney disease and heart failure.
“I exercise once a day, do house chores regularly in order to control my blood pressure, and I also take my medicine on time, and I don’t ignore doctor’s orders for me to survive,” added the 72-year-old gogo.
She further said hypertension is a harsh reminder that one needs to lead a healthy lifestyle, and urged others like her to quit alcohol and to refrain from defaulting on medication to control blood pressure.
“The problem with people is that we eat whatever we want, irrespective of the health hazards of the food we consume. You should learn to follow a healthy diet before you are diagnosed."
A rare condition
“People start eating healthy and exercising when they become sick and it should not be like that. Exercising regularly and being cautious of what you eat, especially when you are still healthy must be a routine,” she adds.
High blood pressure is mostly associated with lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating habits, but there are also those who have the condition from birth.
In the City of Mbombela, 10-year-old Nontu* Simelane is always happy, regardless of having had hypertension since birth. Nontu also suffers from a rare condition called Bardet-Biedl Syndrome.
Her mother Lucia Simelane says everything was fine throughout her pregnancy until she gave birth to a baby was so big that doctors order tests.
“After tests were run my baby was diagnosed with the Bardet-Biedel Syndrome (BBS) as well hypertension,” said Simelame.
According to a Mayo Clinic staff, BBS is a rare genetic disorder with highly variable symptoms including obesity, reduced kidney function and extra digits on hands and/or feet, something which Nontu was born with.
High blood pressure can be managed
As in the case with most children who have hypertension, Nontu’s high blood pressure is linked to her condition. “Over the years, from the day she was born my daughter has been closely monitored by specialist doctors at Steve Biko Hospital and has received a few operations to remove the extra fingers and toes.
"Now her appointments at Steve Biko Hospital are every six months for routine check-ups, but on a monthly basis she goes to Rob Ferreira Hospital because of her high blood pressure that needs to be monitored,” says Lucia. Currently, Nontu is on high blood pressure medications, which include Amlodipine, Enalapril and Lasix.
Lucia says she has educated her daughter about the condition so that she understand the importance of adhering to medication and making sure that she doesn’t eat junk food at school or any place when her mother is not around.
Nontu often experiences difficulty breathing, chest pain, severe headaches, sleeping disorders, and has an eye disease is known as hypertensive retinopathy.
Doctor D.S. Mogale, who is a general practitioner in Ermelo, says that with the right medication and change of lifestyle, high blood pressure can be managed. “You can protect your child from high blood pressure by making sure they change their lifestyle by controlling their weight, providing them with a healthy diet and encouraging them to exercise regularly.
"High blood pressure can be caused by a number of conditions, and may be controlled or even prevented by managing the condition that’s causing it,” he told OurHealth.
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