National Stroke Week 2-8 August 2021
During this ‘National Stroke Week” it is timely to remind everyone that high blood pressure is the most important known risk factor for stroke. As well as an increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure also increases the risk of heart, kidney and blood vessel disease. There are rarely any warning signs that you have high blood pressure, so it is important to have it checked regularly.
A third of Australian adults have high blood pressure (33.7%), that is a blood pressure greater or equal to 140/90mmHg or taking medication for high blood pressure. It is estimated that of these 68% or 3.1 million had uncontrolled or under-managed high blood pressure.
What is blood pressure?
When your heart beats, it pumps blood around your body to give it the energy and oxygen it requires to function. As the blood moves, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. The strength of this pushing is your blood pressure. The first (or top) number is your systolic blood pressure. It is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats. The second (or bottom) number is your diastolic blood pressure. It is the lowest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart relaxes between beats.
The exact causes of high blood pressure are not known. However, the following has an influence on increasing blood pressure:
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity
- Too much salt in the diet
- Regular alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)
- Older age
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Some medications
- Sleep apnoea
Over time high blood pressure causes damage to your blood vessels (arteries and veins) and places a strain on your heart. This may lead to stroke, heart disease and heart failure. Other parts of the body are also affected, including the kidneys, limbs and eyes.
There are several lifestyle changes that can assist in lowering your blood pressure.
- Weight loss – maintain a healthy weight.
- Regular exercise – aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days a week.
- A healthy diet – eat a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
- Reduce your salt intake – even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8mmHg. Choose the low salt options and resist adding salt to your food.
- Reduce alcohol consumption – limit alcoholic drinks to 2 standard drinks a day for men and 1 for women.
- Quit smoking – smoking increases your risk of developing problems with your heart and blood vessels.
You may also be prescribed medication to treat your high blood pressure. It is important to remember to take medication regularly as directed by your doctor.
If you have any concerns about your blood pressure or blood pressure medication your National Pharmacies pharmacist is always there to help with advice on your medications or regular blood pressure monitoring.
Robyn Johns, Chief Pharmacist, National Pharmacies