Southern African Hypertension Society

What is "healthy" blood pressure?

Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers: systolic (upper number) and diastolic (lower number). Diastolic blood pressure is when the pressure is at its lowest, while the heart is resting between beats. Hypertension is traditionally defined as systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure more than or equal to 140/90 mm Hg. In most cases, the higher the blood pressure, the stronger the likelihood of serious consequences for the heart, brain or kidneys. There may be some exceptions depending of your state of health. Ask your healthcare professional about your blood pressure.

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension occurs when the body’s blood vessels are persistently put under increased pressure. We encourage you to have your blood pressure checked: it's the only way to know if you are affected by hypertension.

How can I be affected by Hypertension?

People may develop hypertension because it runs in their family or due to lifestyle habits, such as harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity, overweight, high salt intake, or stress.

What are the consequences of Hypertension?

Hypertension is the leading cause of mortality . It’s also the main risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke. By detecting hypertension early, you can help minimize its complications.

What is the percentage of people affected in the world?

Hypertension affects over 40% of adults aged 25 or older worldwide.

Why we don’t hear much about this disease if it affects so many people and is so important?

Hypertension is a silent, invisible disease that rarely causes symptoms. That's why it is important for everyone to have their blood pressure checked . Many people with hypertension may not even know they have it. Up to as many as half of people with high blood pressure may be undiagnosed. That means that they could suffer the consequences of hypertension – and even death – without ever having been diagnosed. Talk to your doctor to find out more about the disease.

Can I check my blood pressure myself?

A blood pressure test is simple, non-invasive and takes only a few minutes. However, tests are usually done by a healthcare professional, who uses an electronic device that is strapped to the upper arm. The cuff or band squeezes the arm for several seconds, cutting off the blood flow, and then releases. It is important that some simple rules are followed when checking for hypertension: sitting calmly, feet flat on floor, not having eaten in the past hour, etc.
The healthcare professional is best qualified for making the reading meaningful.

How often should I get my blood pressure checked?

Ideally, you should have your blood pressure checked every year. If hypertension is detected early, it is possible to minimize the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney failure. For more information about hypertension, ask your healthcare professional.

Many patients don’t follow their treatment for Hypertension. Is this because the treatment is complicated or restrictive?

Treatment should be individualized for each person. It is important to talk to a healthcare professional about hypertension to try to control blood pressure and restore it to healthy levels. Very effective medications exist that can help control blood pressure and prevent complications. Lack of adherence to medications can be a cause of 1 out of 10 cardiovascular events, so it is important that patients take their medication correctly and are closely monitored by their healthcare professionals. When medication is taken correctly, it can offer proven levels of cardiovascular protection.


  1. Poulter N et al. Lancet. 2015;386(9995):801-812.
  2. World Health Organisation. A global brief on hypertension Silent killer, public health crisis. WHO 2013
  3. Chow CK, et al. Prevalence, awareness, treatment, and control of hypertension in rural and urban communities in high-, middle-, and low-income countries. JAMA 2013;310:959-68.
  4. World Health Organisation. A global brief on hypertension Silent killer, public health crisis. WHO 2013