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21 Jul 2014 10:58
Professor Alta Schutte administering a blood pressures test. (Supplied)
Professor Alta Schutte at North-West University has made it her mission to break down stereotypes and myths around hypertension though long-term and internationally linked studies into the phenomenon.
A recent paper published on hypertension in adults from low- and middle-income countries found South Africa to have the highest prevalence of hypertension of all countries, with 78% of adults older than 50 years being affected.
Schutte’s Research Chair in Early Detection and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Africa aims to create a greater understanding of the factors contributing to hypertension in different groups. “Early detection and prevention are critical to lowering the impact of the disease on health systems and budgets as it can be controlled effectively if patients are aware of their condition,” she says.
Proper interventions could significantly reduce the strain on the National Health Insurance system if patients are treated before complications from hypertension occur.
Typical complications include myocardial infarctions (“heart attacks”), strokes and renal (kidney) failure.
Developing skills around and understanding of these various aspects of hypertension are critical to produce long-term interventions to combat the disease.
“Two main studies are performed in this regard. The African Prospective study on the Early Detection and Identification of Cardiovascular disease and Hypertension (African-PREDICT) includes 1200 young healthy individuals who will be monitored to observe changes in their health. The ultimate goal is to identify early predictors of the onset of hypertension that could be rolled out nationally,” Schutte says.
“The second long-term study is part of an international initiative in which 2000 South Africans are participating in the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, which investigates the impact of urbanisation and economic status on cardiovascular disease development in low- and middle-income countries.”
This supplement has been paid for by Department of Science and Technology and its contents signed off by the DST and the National Research Foundation.
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