February is National Healthy Lifestyle Awareness Month, and what better way to get into the spirit of healthy living than to get to grips with two important health indicators: body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure readings?

Do you know your blood pressure reading from your BMI?

“According to the most recent South Africa Demographic and Health Survey, released by Statistics South Africa last year, close to half of the participants aged older than 15 years were recorded as having high blood pressure,” notes Mark Arnold, Principal Officer of Resolution Health Medical Scheme.

The same study also recorded BMI of most participants and found that one-third of men and two-thirds of women were categorised as being either overweight or obese.

“This Healthy Lifestyle Awareness Month, we are challenging the public to get to know their own blood pressure readings and BMI, and understand the health implications behind these numbers. We believe that such awareness can help people to more acutely appreciate the importance of embracing healthy behaviours and the relationship between lifestyle factors and overall wellness.

“The benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle are numerous. Not only can you remain productive in the workplace and fit for fun leisure activities for longer, but you lower your risks of several other lifestyle diseases and cancers as well.”

What is BMI?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a basic measure used to gauge whether a person is within the healthy weight range, says Dr Jacques Snyman, Director of Product Development at Agility Health, Resolution Health’s administrator.

To work out your BMI, first record your mass in kilograms and your height in metres.

  • Divide your weight by your height (e.g. 65kg/1.5m = 43.3)
  • Take the answer and divide it by your height again (e.g. 43.3/1.5 = 28.8)
  • The answer is your BMI (e.g. 28.8 = overweight)

“This measurement is not applicable to children, the elderly or athletes, and should be discussed with your general practitioner as there could be other clinical factors to be considered. It does, however, provide an indication of whether an average adult has a healthy bodyweight,” Dr Snyman points out.

The ideal BMI would be between 18.5 and 25, while a BMI of between 25 and 30 indicates that the individual could be overweight. A person with a BMI over 30 is usually considered obese. Being overweight or obese is associated with a significantly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.

“Resolution Health utilises Agility Health’s trademarked chronic disease programme known as Patient Driven Care™ (PDC)to assist members in managing their health. This comprises all disease entities and, for instance, would assist with adherence to blood pressure medication by tracking and prompting patients and their medical providers,” Arnold explains.

The Scheme has also focussed on providing a comprehensive Preventative Care Programme that helps members to keep a watchful eye on their health and identify health concerns early.

This includes not only their BMI and blood pressure, but extends to blood sugar testing, pap smears, prostate checks and flu vaccines.

Do you understand your blood pressure readings?

“Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers, signifying systolic and diastolic pressure respectively. A blood pressure test measures the pressure of your blood when your heart is pumping the blood into arteries as well as the resting pressure between heartbeats,” Dr Snyman notes.

Blood pressure readings are expressed as systolic pressure, which is during a heartbeat, over diastolic pressure, after the heartbeat.

According to the Heart Foundation, optimal blood pressure readings for an adult, while at rest, are lower than 120mmHg for systolic pressure, and 80mmHg for diastolic pressure. Readings in the normal range are between 120 and 129mmHg for systolic pressure, and 80 and 84mmHg for diastolic pressure.

“People whose blood pressure exceeds 130mmHg/85mmHg are regarded as having elevated blood pressure and should discuss strategies for reducing their blood pressure with their general practitioner. In many cases, dietary changes and exercise, as well as better management of daily stress, can assist in bringing slightly elevated blood pressure under control,” Dr Snyman notes.

Unchecked, high blood pressure can cause kidney damage and visual impairment, and is a risk factor for stroke and heart attack.

“This is where the Patient Driven Care programme assists at-risk medical scheme members to adhere to their prescribed medication and proactively manage their health for improved outcomes,” Dr Snyman explains.

“Our published research demonstrates that better compliance, that is taking your medicines as prescribed always, reduces the risk of a patient being admitted to hospital for conditions related to heart disease.”

“Prevention is always better then cure, and awareness is an important starting point. This Healthy Lifestyle Awareness Month, we encourage people to get to know their individual health risks and use this awareness as a springboard for developing the healthy behaviours that can help to fend off lifestyle-related diseases,” Arnold concludes.

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