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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 risk factors for stroke and cardiovascular disease 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. There are a number of different blood pressure devices you may use to do this. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.

 

What causes high blood pressure?

In most cases it is impossible to pinpoint an exact cause. However, there are a number of risk factors that have been linked to high blood pressure. 

These include:

  • A family history of high blood pressure.
  • Age (blood pressure can rise as people get older).
  • Men are more likely to have high blood pressure than women.
  • Being overweight.
  • Excessive alcohol drinking.
  • Smoking.
  • Diabetes.
  • Lack of exercise.
  • A diet high in salt.

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 unnecessary stress on blood vessel walls, causing blood vessels to thicken and break down.
  • High blood pressure can increase pressure on the walls of blood vessels taking blood to the brain and weaken them, leading to a bleed in the brain.
  • High blood pressure can cause blood clots or plaque (cholesterol and other fatty-like substances) to break off artery walls and block a brain artery causing a 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 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. Some people will require a number of different ways to lower their blood pressure (medication and lifestyle changes). Medication does not cure high blood pressure, it can only help control it. 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

Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle-related disease and can often be prevented. It is the most common form of diabetes and is caused by high levels of glucose in the blood. People with untreated diabetes tend to have high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and twice the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The Australian Type 2 Diabetes Risk Assessment Tool gives you an AUSDRISK score related to your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.

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.
  • Know your blood pressure. The lower your blood pressure the lower your risk of stroke. To lower your blood pressure your doctor may also prescribe medication.
  • Healthy eating. Enjoy a variety of foods especially plant based foods including fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes and wholegrain breads and cereals.
  • Get active. Try to exercise regularly. At least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week is recommended.
  • Drop the salt. Cut down on takeaway foods and don’t add salt at the table or when cooking.
  • Limit alcohol. Stay within recommended limits for drinking alcohol (no more than two standard drinks per day).
  • Be smoke-free, quit smoking. Call Quitline on 13 7848.