If you still think that high blood pressure is a disease for boomers and old people, you’re sadly mistaken. Dangerously high blood pressure or hypertension, is the world’s “silent killer”, and can send you to an early grave if left untreated. This is according to Sister Shirley Grootboom who unpacks hypertension on this episode of Sisters Without Shame.
She warns that hypertension knows no age. “Hypertension can also be hereditary which means it is a family disease and in the blood, so you will find young people with hypertension as well,” says Grootboom.
What causes hypertension in young people?
High blood pressure occurs when the force of the blood pushing on the blood vessel walls is too high.
In Mzansi, around 45% of men and 48% of women, older than 15 years, suffer from hypertension, according to a 2021 study published in the journal Global Epidemiology. This high rate is often attributed to two major lifestyle factors; diet, and lack of exercise, says Grootboom.
She adds, “If you are a smoker, that can also lead to high blood pressure, and if you are excessively consuming alcohol, that can also push up your pressure. Age is another factor as well as stress.”
“We are going through a lot these days. You will find even the younger generation present with high blood pressure and most of the time, these cases are stress-related and then you have your family history.”
Associated health problems
Grootboom explains that high blood pressure is known as a “silent killer” because there are rarely any symptoms or visible signs to warn that blood pressure is high.
Hypertension is one of the most serious risk factors for death from heart diseases and strokes. Other related illnesses that can result from high blood pressure, includes heart attacks, heart failure, kidney disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
“With metabolic syndrome, a lot of illnesses might occur at the same time within the body, and then this results in the pressure being elevated or pushed up. When this happens, you are at great risk of a stroke, heart attack or contracting diabetes too.”
What blood pressure readings mean
A blood pressure measurement is recorded as two numbers, systolic and diastolic.
“Systolic is the first number at the top,” says Grootboom. “It’s the pressure in the arteries that is being measured at that moment when you record the blood pressure.”
“The bottom figure is what we call the diastolic. This is when the arteries are being measured, when the heart is at risk in between the beats, that is when the diastolic is being measured.”
Not everybody will get the 140/80 reading which is universally regarded as a normal blood pressure reading.
“Pressures varies from person to person. 140/80 might be high for me, but 140/80 might be normal for the next person.”
Health is wealth
While you cannot eat your hypertension away, making lifestyle changes and taking medication can improve your blood pressure, says Grootboom.
“There is a diet that we call the DASH diet. It stands for dietary approach to stopping hypertension. This includes foods like wholegrains, vegetables, products that are low in dairy, and foods that are high in fibre.”
Listen to the full interview on Sisters Without Shame
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