High blood pressure, medically known as hypertension is something that many of us have heard of before and are screened for or asked about when visiting the gym or other training facilities. According to the South African Hypotensive Society 4 out of 10 adults over the age of 25 suffer from hypertension, making it quite common. But how do we know whether we have hypertension and how do we treat it?

Hypertension has been given the nickname of “the silent killer” because many people are unaware that they have it. This means that, if undetected, it can cause damage to your body for years before symptoms become obvious.

Hypertension is one of the major risk factors in developing heart disease, kidney disease and even some eye diseases. Prolonged hypertension can also result in enlargement of the heart, increasing your risk of heart failure, arrhythmias and anginas. This is due to the increase in pressure forcing your heart to pump more frequently and with more force.

Diagnosing hypertension is as simple as taking your blood pressure reading over the course of a few days.

A blood pressure reading is given in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). The first number or top number is called your systolic pressure. This is the force generated in your arteries when your heart beats. The second number or bottom number on your reading is known as your diastolic pressure. This measures the force generated in your arteries when your heart relaxes or between your heart beats. A normal blood pressure reading should be less than 120mm Hg for Systolic pressure and less than 80mm Hg for Diastolic pressure.

Your Blood pressure is therefore determined by both the amount/volume of blood your heart pumps and the resistance/force of blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries are, the higher your blood pressure will be.

High blood pressure can be broken up into two stages and one crisis zone.

Stage 1 hypertension: 130-139mm Hg/ 80-89 mm Hg.

Stage 2 hypertension:  140 mm Hg or higher/ 90 mm Hg or higher.

Hypertensive crisis: 180 mm Hg or higher/ 120 mm Hg or higher.  Blood pressure in this range requires urgent medical attention.

Fortunately, hypertension can be treated through lifestyle changes and medication. Some of the better-known lifestyle changes you can make are:

  • Following a healthy eating plan.
  • Increasing your physical activity.
  • Decreasing your weight to a healthy range.
  • Managing your stress.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Decreasing your alcohol consumption.

Next time you are in our facility ask one of our friendly fitness instructors to take your blood pressure. Regularly screening using this simple tool can help detect the early onset of hypertension and can save lives.