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By Ibironke Taiwo. Datelinehealth Africa Volunteer and Freelance Writer, with editorial support from The DLHA Team
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a global health problem with a high burden particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
As at the year 2010, it is estimated that nearly 1 in 10 sub-Saharan Africans have hypertension and of this population, nearly 1 in 3 are unaware that they have the condition; hence the term “silent killer” to describe it. (1)
Hypertension is a major risk factor for other health conditions like heart attack, stroke, eye and kidney disorders, etc, and its rising burden in Africa has been associated with certain lifestyle choices that people make; such as high salt intake, lack of exercise, too much alcohol or caffeine consumption, smoking, age, stress, being overweight, etc. (2, 3)
In view of this association, modification of lifestyles with or without medications, have proven to be the best options in the prevention and control of the disorder.
This presentation will arm you with information about key lifestyle changes you as an African can make in order to keep hypertension at bay (i.e., prevent or control it).
So keep on reading!
As much as table salt gives flavourful taste to food, a consistent high intake of it has been linked with the risk of developing hypertension.
A rise in sodium salt level in the body due to high intake enhances water retention with increase in the volume of blood and of other body fluid spaces. The increase in blood volume in turn increases the pressure exerted by the blood against blood vessel walls to cause high blood pressure.
So, a low salt intake is known to help lower the risk of high blood pressure. Therefore, there is a need to regulate or reduce the intake of salt in your diet by:
Many Africans are unaware or underestimate the impact of exercise on their health. This is the basis for the popular belief in the continent that exercise is meant for those who want to lose weight alone.
Moderate -intensity exercise has however been in many studies to be an important drug-free approach to reducing blood pressure. (5)
Exercise makes the heart stronger and enables it to pump more blood with less tension thereby decreasing the force on the arterial wall. This in turn helps to lower blood pressure. (5)
It is important to know that engaging in exercise doesn't have to be a vigorous one or going to the gym.
When engaged in regularly and at least for 30 minutes per day, basic exercise such as dancing, jogging, swimming, playing basketball or tennis, cycling, etc., can help in achieving the goal of reducing blood pressure.
So, keep moving!
3. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
It should be noted that every individual has an ideal body weight (See Weight chart) and accumulation of fat beyond your ideal body weight is referred to as obesity which is usually greater than or equal to 20% of the normal weight (ideal body weight).
Those who fall in the category of being obese are likely to have hypertension because the presence of excess body fat makes your heart work harder in pumping blood and oxygen around your body which in turn adds stress to your heart and blood vessels thereby causing high blood pressure (hypertension)
The best way to prevent obesity induced hypertension is to maintain a healthy weight by:
Nicotine is a harmful substance found in cigarettes. It narrows your arteries and hardens your arterial wall thereby increasing your blood pressure risk due to smoking.
When used in moderation, alcohol is known to have protective effects against coronary artery disease.
However abuse of alcohol is harmful to several body organs including the heart muscle, brain, kidneys, liver and others. It also raises the risk of hypertension and stroke.
You will do well to stop smoking and reduce or stop alcohol use completely in order to lower your hypertension risk.
What you consume is important and has a lot to do with the proper functioning of your body.
One proper body function is the maintenance of normal blood pressure. This is why it is very essential for you to be careful in the choice of your diet as some foods aggravate the risk of hypertension while some help in its prevention and normal maintenance.
Diets that raise hypertension risk include:
Diets that lower hypertension risk include:
Hypertension also known as high blood pressure occurs when the blood pressure ranges above the normal value of 120/80 mmHg.
Statistics have it that the prevalence of hypertension is quite high in sub-Saharan Africa and is projected to increase into the year 2030.
Evidence abound that certain lifestyle choices that people make contribute to raise their hypertension risk.(6)
The lifestyle choices include high salt intake, lack of physical activity, obesity, poor diet and smoking.
Reducing salt intake, engaging in exercise, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding use of harmful substances like cigarette and alcohol help to control and lower high blood pressure risk.
1. Okello, S., Muhihi, A., Mohamed, S.F. et al. Hypertension prevalence, awareness, treatment, and control and predicted 10-year CVD risk: a cross-sectional study of seven communities in East and West Africa (SevenCEWA). BMC Public Health 20, 1706 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-09829-5
2. NHS. (n.d.). Causes of hypertension. Last reviewed: July11, 2023. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/causes/. Accessed. July 26, 2023.
3. Hypertension in Nigerian adults: What you need to know. (2023) Available from: https://www.datelinehealthafrica.org/hypertension-in-nigerian-adults-essential-things-to-know. Accessed, July 26, 2023.
4. Action on Salt. (n.d.). Blood pressure. Retrieved from: https://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/salthealth/factsheets/pressure/. Accessed July28, 2023.
5. Best exercise for blood pressure control.2023. Available from: https://www.datelinehealthafrica.org/best-exercise-for-blood-pressure-control. Accessed July 26 2023.
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, March 31). Know your risks for high blood pressure. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/risk_factors.htm. Accessed July 26, 2023.
Published: July 27, 2023
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