Blood pressure and stroke

Australia’s Biggest Blood Pressure Check aims to get more people understanding their stroke risk. The check is more than just a blood pressure check. You will also be asked to complete a questionnaire to help identify if you are at increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease and/or type 2 diabetes.  

This check is in accordance with the Guidelines for the assessment of absolute cardiovascular disease risk (2009), National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance (NVDPA).  The check will only take a few minutes to complete and includes:

  1. A questionnaire to assess heart disease and stroke risk factors and type 2 diabetes including The Australian Type 2 Diabetes Risk Assessment Tool known as AUSDRISK. You are given an AUSDRISK score related to your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. People with diabetes tend to have high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and twice the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
  2. Blood pressure check and waist measurement.
  3. Your results including a chat with a health professional. At the conclusion people with elevated risk of stroke and related chronic disease are referred to their doctor for a comprehensive health assessment.


What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when the supply of blood to the brain is suddenly interrupted because it is blocked by a clot or because an artery bursts. When blood stops flowing, the brain does not receive oxygen it needs and therefore brain cells in the area die and permanent damage may be done. The good news is many stroke are preventable.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force put on blood vessel walls as blood travels through your body. Blood pressure varies throughout the day to meet your body’s needs. High blood pressure is an important risk factor for stroke and the most modifiable. High blood pressure is sometimes called the ‘silent killer’ because sufferers can show no symptoms. The only way to know your blood pressure is to have it checked. Therefore it is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly.

What do blood pressure numbers mean?

Your blood pressure reading is expressed with two numbers; for example, 120/80. Blood pressure varies to meet your body’s needs. If your blood pressure is consistently above 140/90 mmHg (or 130/80 mmHg if you have diabetes) it is important you discuss with your doctor and consider your other risk factors.

If the reading is high, your doctor may measure your blood pressure on a number of occasions. You may be asked to monitor your blood pressure at home. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.

What causes high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is the leading modifiable risk factor for stroke and the most preventable cause of stroke worldwide. Major contributors to high blood pressure include: 

  • A family history of high blood pressure.
  • Age (blood pressure can increase with age).
  • Gender (men are more likely to have high blood pressure than women).
  • Being overweight.
  • Excessive alcohol drinking.
  • Smoking.
  • Diabetes.
  • Lack of exercise.
  • High salt intake.

Why does blood pressure matter?

  • High blood pressure (also known as ‘hypertension’) can have many harmful effects which can eventually lead to stroke.
  • High blood pressure puts strain on blood vessels all over the body including arteries to the brain.
  • High blood pressure can accelerate the build-up of plaque on the artery walls, weakening the walls of the arteries i nyour brain which can cause stroke.

Blood pressure medication

If you have high blood pressure, or your overall risk of stroke is high because you have multiple stroke risk factors, your doctor my prescribe medication to lower  and control your blood pressure. There are many blood pressure medications and your doctor may need to increase the dose or use these medications in combination to reduce your blood pressure. Most people who are treated will need to keep taking medication over a lifetime.

How often do I need to check my blood pressure?

Click here to find out

Type 2 diabetes and stroke

People with type 2 diabetes don't have enough insulin in their bodies, which converts sugar from food into energy. Over time this can lead to increases in fatty deposits or clots on the inside of blood vessel walls. If untreated or undiagnosed, these clots can narrow or block the blood vessel walls in the brain, cutting off blood supply to the brain and causing a stroke.

Simple steps to lower your blood pressure and reduce your stroke risk

There are a number of factors you can control to help reduce your blood pressure and chances of having a stroke.

  • Have your blood pressure checked by a doctor or pharmacist. The lower your blood pressure the lower your risk of stroke.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and eat well
  • Be active on most days of the week.
  • Lower your salt intake. Limit alcohol intake.
  • Be smoke-free, quit smoking. Call Quitline on 13 78 48.

Read the Stroke Foundation fact sheet for High blood pressure and stroke