Under Pressure: Keeping your Blood Pressure in Check

Keeping your Blood Pressure in Check
Keeping your Blood Pressure in Check

Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer

World Hypertension Day, driven by the World Hypertension League, is observed annually on 17 May, but what is hypertension and why is it so important that annually, a specific day is dedicated to it globally?

According to Angela Leach, Head Dietician at FUTURELIFE®, Hypertension, also referred to as high blood pressure, is a silent killer as it often presents with little or no symptoms, but can be the cause of heart attacks, heart disease, strokes and even death. She adds that South Africans are affected too, with one in every three South Africans living with hypertension.

This year, the theme for World Hypertension Day is Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer. This theme emphasises that detection is the first line of defense. “As very few people with high blood pressure experience symptoms, it is crucial to have your blood pressure measured annually,” says Angela. “Luckily, this is a quick process and your local GP, clinic or pharmacy will be able to assist.”

Diagnosed with high blood pressure? What now?

Angela says that the good news is that hypertension can be managed. “Through medication and lifestyle adjustments, blood pressure can be kept under control, reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes.”

She offers three ways to help keep your blood pressure in check:  

1. Medication

If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, your doctor might have prescribed anti-hypertensive medication. Medication plays a vital role in controlling high blood pressure and initially, regular follow up appointments with your doctor might also be required to ensure the efficacy of the prescribed medication and dosage. Yet many living with the condition still fail to take their medication regularly, simply because they do not feel ill. Although you may not experience any symptoms, it is essential to follow “doctor’s orders” to maintain stable blood pressure and lessen the risk of a life-threatening disease.

2. Exercise

Physical activity holds many benefits, from enhanced mood and reduced stress levels to lower body weight and improved cardiovascular fitness. All these factors also help to reduce blood pressure. It is recommended to do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily, this means exercise that increases your heart rate and leaves you slightly out of breath. Start at an activity level you feel comfortable at and gradually build the intensity and duration of exercise. Before you know it, you will have reached your fitness goals; don’t give up!

3. Nutrition

A diet low in salt and saturated fats and high in antioxidants and fibre is recommended to promote heart health. As salt directly affects blood pressure, we should try to consume as little salt as possible. When we think about salt, we tend to only recognise the white “saltshaker” salt as added salt in all our meals when in fact many other ingredients contain high amounts of hidden salt. This includes processed and cured meats, stock cubes, soup powders and even breads and processed cereals. Luckily, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa have developed the Heart Mark programme, where foods that meet the criteria to be considered heart healthy are marked with the Heart Mark logo:

This is a great tool to assist South Africans in making heart-healthy choices at the supermarket. FUTURELIFE® Smart Instant Oats Classic, for example, is a product endorsed by the Heart Mark programme as it contains 0% added sugar, is low in salt, helps lower cholesterol and is high in beta-glucan fibre. It has a texture closer to traditional oats while offering the convenience of quick and easy instant oats preparation. FUTURELIFE® Smart Instant Oats Classic is also high in Zinc, Copper and Selenium to support your immune system. Visit our online store www.futurelife.com to purchase this product and for more information.

 

“With some exercise, healthy eating habits and the correct medication you can take control of hypertension, so heed this year’s theme – Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It and Live Longer,” concludes Angela.