Cardiovascular Disease risk factors:

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.  Knowing your blood pressure could save your life.

Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries – the vessels that carry your blood from your heart to your brain and the rest of your body.  You need certain amount of pressure to get the blood ay and night, and it is normal for it to go up while you are moving about.  It is when your overall blood pressure is consistently high, even when you are resting, that you need to do something about it.

High blood pressure is medically known as hypertension.  It means your blood pressure is consistently too high and means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body.  High blood pressure is serious.  If you ignore it, it can lead to cardiovascular diseases like heart attack or stroke.  It can also cause kidney failure, heart failure, problems with your sight and vascular dementia.

Although your arteries are stretchy to cope with your blood pressure going up and down, it you have high blood pressure, your arteries lose their elasticity and become stiff and narrow.  The narrowing make it easier for fatty material (atheroma) to clog them up.  If the arteries that carry blood to your heart get damages and clogged, it can lead to a heart attack.  If this happens in the arteries that carry blood to your brain it can lead to a stroke.

There isn’t always an explanation to the cause of high blood pressure, but most people develop high blood pressure because of their diet, lifestyle or medical condition.

Sometimes high blood pressure is hereditary and can also worsen with age.  People living in deprived areas (abject poverty) are at a higher risk of having high blood pressure.  However, no matter the case, you may still be able to improve your blood pressure by changing your diet and being active.

The following can all increase your risk of getting high blood pressure:

  • Drinking too much Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Being Overweight (Obese)
  • Not doing enough exercise
  • Eating too much salt
  • Kidney disease

Some medicines, such as oral contraceptives and some over-the-counter and herbal medicines.

High blood pressure rarely has noticeable symptoms.  That’s why it is so important to get your blood pressure checked.  Find out more about the symptoms of high blood pressure.

Your blood pressure is usually measured using a sphygmomanometer (pronounced ‘svig-mo-man-ometer’).  This is usually a digital electronic monitor, which is connected to an inflatable cuff that is wrapped around your upper arm.

When you have your blood pressure measured, the reading is written as two numbers.  The first is when the pressure is at its highest (or systolic pressure), and the second at its lowest (or diastolic pressure).  For example, your reading will be something like: 140/90 mmHg (mmHg is a unit for measuring blood pressure). You will be told something like ‘140 over 90’.

Systolic Pressure: This is the highest level of your blood pressure – when your heart beats and contracts to pump blood through your arteries.

Diastolic Pressure: This is the lowest level of your blood pressure – when your heart relaxes between beats.

You can get your blood pressure checked at:

  • Local Clinics
  • Government Hospitals
  • Some work places
  • At Home (own testing kit)

Many adults in Botswana have undiagnosed high blood pressure, so will not know that they are at risk. The only way to know whether you have high blood pressure is to have it measured. So, it’s important to get your blood pressure checked.

Find out more about how you can measure and manage your blood pressure at home.

You can buy a blood pressure monitors from a Pharmacy or online to check your blood pressure at home.

Your blood pressure should be under 140/90 mmHg.


  • Systolic: lower than 90 mmHg
  • Diastolic: lower than 60 mmHg


  • Systolic: lower than 140 mmHg
  • Diastolic: lower than 90 mmHg

Possible hypertension

  • Systolic: between 140 and 180 mmHg
  • Diastolic: between 90 and 110 mmHg

Severe hypertension

  • Systolic: higher than 180 mmHg
  • Diastolic: higher than 110 mmHg