Hypertension is known as the ‘silent killer’ because, despite there being no signs or symptoms, it can lead to serious cardiovascular disease. A blood pressure test is the only way to find out if your blood pressure is too high. In light of these facts, and in collaboration with the May Measurement Month (MMM) campaign run by the International Society of Hypertension (ISH), pharmaceutical group Servier is launching #BecauseIsayso – a new worldwide campaign to raise public awareness about the importance of regular blood pressure screening.
“South Africa has seen an exponential growth in hypertension or high blood pressure (BP) over the last 20 years,” says Professor Bryan Rayner, nephrologist and director of the Hypertension Institute at the University of Cape Town. “In a sense we are facing a national health emergency, but because the links between high BP and death, heart disease and stroke are indirect, public awareness is poor.”
“Risk factors for hypertension are a family history of hypertension, diabetes or stroke; obesity; African ethnicity; sedentary lifestyle; diabetes; high BP in pregnancy; and a poor diet with excess alcohol, sugar and salt,” says Rayner. “High BP generally causes no symptoms before it strikes unexpectedly. But the very good news is that medication, combined with a healthy lifestyle, can prevent complications.”
In 2017, an estimated 42% to 54% of people were suffering from hypertension in South Africa and this figure is expected to increase. Moreover, hypertension is the leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Other complications can include heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, renal impairment, retinal haemorrhage and visual impairment. Hypertension is the leading cause of mortality, with an estimated 1.2 billion sufferers globally. In South Africa, more than 1 in 3 adults live with high blood pressure and it is responsible for 1 in every 2 strokes and 2 in every 5 heart attacks.
A study by Wits University scientists and peers has revealed that South Africa also has the highest prevalence of hypertension in southern Africa, as well as the largest number of people whose blood pressure is still not controlled, even while on treatment.
According to Dr Stuart Ali, project manager and researcher at the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience at Wits University, "For men, only 40% were aware of their hypertension condition. Of those who knew and were being treated, only 39% had controlled blood pressure. For women, the picture was better with 54% being aware of their hypertension condition, and of those undergoing treatment, 51% had controlled blood pressure."
“No one is immune to hypertension – black or white, male or female, rich or poor, old or young, overweight or thin, fit or unfit – and it is essential that everyone has their BP screened regularly especially if you have risk factors for hypertension,” says Rayner. “If your BP is greater than 140/90, further evaluation is required by a health professional. If your BP is between 130-140/80-90, implement lifestyle changes as you are at risk for hypertension.”
#BecauseIsayso – a campaign to motivate people to get their blood pressure checked
A new international awareness campaign “Because I Say So”, launched by Servier and supported by ISH, aims to refocus public attention by encouraging young adults to motivate their parents and loved ones to get their blood pressure checked.
Blood pressure screening empowers people to know where they stand and allows them to manage their blood pressure to reduce their risk of a cardiovascular event. The purpose of the campaign is to put this disease back in the spotlight because talking about it to friends or family can make a difference in their lives.
Blood pressure checks – special events
The World Hypertension League (WHL) celebrated World Hypertension Day on 17 May 2018. The theme is ‘Know Your Numbers’ with the goal of increasing high blood pressure awareness in all populations around the world. In addition, May Measurement Month (MMM) is a global awareness campaign run by the ISH to highlight the importance of screening for raised blood pressure.
“High BP is subject to the rule of halves,” says Rayner. “50% of the population are unaware of their condition, 50% of those who are aware do not take treatment, and 50% of those who take treatment are not controlled, leaving only 12.5 % of the total population who are controlled. That’s why awareness campaigns are essential to improve the health of all South Africans. In the US these awareness campaigns have been highly successful, resulting in significant reductions in stroke and heart disease over the last 10 to 20 years.”
In South Africa, the Southern African Hypertension Society (SAHS), linked to the ISH screening initiative, will be running screening days and raising awareness of hypertension in May. #BecauseIsayso, May Measurement Month (MMM), ISH and Servier will partner to get more people talking about this condition and raising awareness of the importance of getting their BP checked.
As part of the drive to promote awareness, blood pressure screenings are being organised by the SAHS, to encourage people to get their blood pressure checked. These will be held at the following venues:
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
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
It’s quick and easy
Having a blood pressure check is quick, simple and non-invasive. Usually, the healthcare professional will use an electronic device that is strapped to the upper arm. The cuff or band squeezes the arm for several seconds, cutting off blood flow, and then releases. It is important that some simple rules are followed when checking for hypertension: sitting calmly, feet flat on floor, back supported and not having eaten (or smoked) in the past hour.
Issued by Servier