Blood pressure research sky-rockets
Potchefstroom Campus - Double the number of black people than white people die of blood pressure-related diseases such as stroke. Another shocking fact is that nearly 70% of black male teachers suffer from high blood pressure.
According to Prof Alta Schutte, director of the Hypertension in Africa Research Team (HART) at the North-West University’s Potchefstroom Campus, blood pressure diseases in this race group are a trend that is increasing at an alarming rate. “It is a trend that must receive attention now. That is why the university has just recently stablished a hypertension clinic, which will soon officially open its doors. Here we will specialise in various aspects of hypertension. The team will tackle highly specialised research projects. Early diagnosis and prevention of hypertension as well as the awareness thereof will receive attention.”
The National Research Foundation has announced that they will spend R12,5 million over five years on this research area. “We are ecstatic about these funds, which means that our research can now be taken to new heights. It also offers more postgraduate students the opportunity to further continue with their studies and research,” says Prof Alta.
Prof Alta is of the opinion that it is commonly known that urbanisation and westernisation, with all the accompanying factors, are the main reason for the increase in blood pressure-related diseases amongst black people. She lists the factors as the increase in unhealthy food, easy availability of alcohol, cigarettes and a stressful lifestyle. “On top of that, this urbanisation took place over a very short period – less than 100 years – where it took centuries for the white population. Then there are also adaptations in the kidneys with reference to the use of salt. Black people tend to be salt sensitive, which means that the kidneys retain more salt, which causes an increase in blood pressure.”
Their planned research entails, amongst others, that a number of people will be tested for blood pressure-related diseases, after which they will be followed up on an annual basis. “With this we want to determine exactly which physiological changes occur over time with the development of high blood pressure. We can then use this information again for the prevention of the disease and by carrying out interventions.”
A colleague of Prof Alta, Prof Leone Malan, in turn proved that the education profession is more susceptible to diseases such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and depression. “Concerns like increasing pressure, changes in the curricula, teacher-learner relationships, disciplinary problems, violence in schools as well as challenging stress coping abilities with reference to performance are indisputable.”
Prof Leone states that a lack of effective stress coping skills has a huge impact on the teacher’s general health. “The teacher can therefore try to handle the situation psychologically, but his body experiences a feeling of helplessness or resignation. The consequence can cause burnout and lifestyle diseases.”
Prof Alta Schutte
Prof Leone Malan