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Silent threat: Why you should know your blood pressure status


 When Professor Henry Kiplagat was screened for high blood pressure by Heizel Tumo a nursing student at Kabarak University during the free medical camp in the school on November 18, 2017. [File, Standard]

Most of you have likely had your blood pressure (BP) checked at some point, whether during a regular doctor’s visit, before treatment, during clinical checkup drives or as part of your annual health checkup.

But have you ever wondered why? Often, you’ll hear the medic say your BP is okay or not okay. High or low blood pressure can be dangerous for your overall health.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30-79 years globally have high blood pressure.

Hypertension is known as the ‘silent killer’ since nearly half of those with it worldwide are unaware of their condition. It is a major cause of death, accounting for approximately 7.5 million deaths annually.

In Kenya, hypertension prevalence estimates are high, ranging from 12.6 per cent to 36.9 per cent, with higher rates in urban areas. Overall, 28.6 per cent of the population has hypertension: 29.2 per cent among men and 27.9 per cent among women, 17.7 per cent among individuals aged 18–29 years, and 58.3 per cent among those aged 60–69 years.

Blood pressure readings are measured in mmHg (millimeters of mercury) and recorded as two numbers: systolic value, the pressure during heartbeats, and diastolic value, the pressure between heartbeats.

A normal blood pressure range is between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, defined as a systolic pressure of less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic pressure of less than 80 mm Hg. Understanding these numbers is crucial as they influence many decisions related to an individual’s treatment and health risks. Here’s why knowing your blood pressure numbers matters:

Prevents health issues: Monitoring your blood pressure allows early detection of high levels, helping to prevent heart disease through lifestyle changes or medications, as high blood pressure often shows no noticeable symptoms. Guides exercise and diet: Your blood pressure affects how you should exercise and what you should eat. Updates health norms: Blood pressure norms change over time. Knowing your baseline helps you understand your current health better and manage medication effectively. Protects kidney health: High blood pressure can damage your kidneys. Regular monitoring helps prevent this by enabling you to manage your blood pressure effectively. Complications from hypertension include stroke, blindness, heart disease, heart failure, aortic aneurysms, kidney disease, vascular dementia and even death.

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