Aussies urged to roll up their sleeves for hypertension

WITH one in three people experiencing high blood pressure, Australians are being urged to visit their local doctor or pharmacist to make sure they aren’t at risk of a stroke.

Known as the silent killer, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the single biggest risk factor for stroke, and contributes to 25,000 deaths a year, mainly due to stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, heart failure, atrial fibrillation and dementia. The only way for people to know if they have high blood pressure is to have it checked regularly.

Each May, Stroke Foundation promotes the importance of blood pressure tests as part of Australia’s Biggest Blood Pressure Check campaign, which coincides with World Hypertension Day on May 17. Stroke Foundation’s chief executive, Dr Lisa Murphy, said having your blood pressure checked was easy, painless and potentially lifesaving, but was too often overlooked.

“High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for death in Australia and the world, leading to 10.8 million deaths globally each year. In Australia, high blood pressure is responsible for 41 per cent of strokes,” Dr Murphy said.

“Only a third, or 32 per cent of people whose high blood pressure has been detected, have it under control. Reducing high blood pressure by a quarter could save 37,000 lives and return $34.3 billion to the economy.”

A normal blood pressure measurement is described as around 120 over 80mmHg. A measurement of 140 over 90mmHg is regarded as high blood pressure and puts you at increased risk of stroke, no matter your age.

“You can begin with controlling your blood pressure by changing your diet, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight,” Dr Murphy said.

“A quick and painless blood pressure check can be all it takes for someone to change their lifestyle and reduce their stroke risk. When 80 per cent of all strokes are preventable, why would you not want to know your risk?”

Around 4.7 million Australians have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for stroke. The World Health Organization and the National Heart Foundation of Australia defines ‘high’ blood pressure as systolic pressure at or above 140mmHg. Major contributors to high blood pressure include poor diet (especially high salt intake), being overweight, excessive alcohol consumption and insufficient physical activity. Research suggests that 48 per cent of strokes could be prevented if high blood pressure was eliminated. Lowering blood pressure has been conclusively shown to prevent both ischaemic and haemorrhagic strokes, and it is equally important in secondary prevention.

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