So, what is hypertension?

Blood pressure measures the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. It is determined both by the amount of blood pumped by your heart and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.

Why is it a problem?

Hypertension is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood out to the body. High blood pressure damages your heart and blood vessels, putting you at risk for serious health problems such as heart attack and stroke. The higher your blood pressure and the longer it goes uncontrolled, the greater the damage. In fact, hypertension can cause potentially life-threatening aneurysms; heart failure; vision loss due to thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes; and even limited blood flow to the brain which can result in dementia.

What causes it?

While the exact causes are unknown, there are several factors that may play a role, including:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Too much salt in the diet
  • Stress
  • Older age
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Excessive alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)

What should I do?

If you are concerned that you might have high blood pressure, visit one of our network GPs and ask them to check your blood pressure. They will be able to advise you on whether you have hypertension and what your plan of action should be. They might prescribe medication (which we pay for since hypertension is one of the 24 specified conditions under our unlimited chronic medication benefit) in addition to lifestyle changes such as altering your diet and increasing your exercise.

Your doctor should be doing a blood pressure reading at least every two years if you’re aged 18 and above and every year if you’re 40 or older. Those who are under 40 and are at risk for high blood pressure should be checked every year too.

If you’re worried about your blood pressure but are not a member yet, go to https://www.episodic.co.za/health to get a personalised quote.