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Beating hypertension, fighting high food prices

A stoke left her half paralysed and unable to speak properly but ten months later, Elsie Malaza is determined to walk the road to recovery.

Wheel chair

Research by South Africa’s National Agricultural Marketing Council shows rural communities often pay more for staple food stuffs

Living in Mpumalanga’s Gert Sibande District, Malaza is diabetic and has hypertension, or high blood pressure, which – if not managed – can lead to stroke. When Malaza suffered a stroke last year, she was admitted into hospital barely able to speak and partially paralysed but determined to make a full recovery.

“I made sure that I attended the clinic every month for check-ups and collected my diabetes and hypertension medication, which I take every single day,” she told OurHealth.

Rising food prices take their toll

But medication is only one part of Malaza’s formula to recovery. Nurses say she will need to make some major life changes to get better – and reduce her risk of another stroke.

Top of the list is eating better, which Malaza says is not always possible on a pension.

“The nurses have told me to follow the correct diet to help control my conditions, but I am a pensioner and I usually buy food that will last the whole month and which excludes fresh vegetables and fruits,” she said.

“I am a pensioner and I usually buy food that will last the whole month and that excludes fresh vegetables and fruits”

“Often I do not get to eat what the nurses recommend,” she admitted. “Most of what I eat is probably not healthy and nutritious.”

According to recent research by South Africa’s National Agricultural Marketing Council, the prices of food stuffs such as milk, eggs and vegetables have risen by about six percent in the last year. The council also found that rural communities often pay more than their urban counterparts for staple food items.

Diet can be very important not only for helping to reduce high blood pressure but also in managing diabetes. In most adults with this condition, diabetes arises from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin to control blood sugar levels. If uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to complications like blindness, kidney damage and – in severe cases – amputations of the feet.

Even though Malaza does not always manage to eat a balanced diet to keep her blood pressure and sugar levels in check, she exercises regularly to keep fit. Regular exercise – even 30 minutes a day – can help patients better control their blood sugar levels.

Malaza also attends physiotherapy and speech sessions.

“I can feel myself getting stronger after each session,” she said. “After a few months I was able to walk on my own, but I’m still a little bit weak, so I need the help of a walking stick.”

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