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Stroke Foundation Shocked At Numbers With Elevated Blood Pressure

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Stroke Foundation Shocked At Numbers With Elevated Blood Pressure

The Stroke Foundation says it is shocked to find that nearly half of those who took advantage of recent free blood pressure checks had raised blood pressure, and is warning that far greater numbers of New Zealanders may have high blood pressure than previously thought.

To mark Stroke Awareness Week, the Stroke Foundation, St John and Lions offered free blood pressure checks on Saturday 12 September at over 100 supermarkets throughout the country. About 12,000 people had their blood pressure checked.

Dr John Fink, Stroke Foundation Medical Advisor, says 46 percent of the blood pressures reported back to the Stroke Foundation were above normal.

"These were people with blood pressures of 140 systolic or higher and 90 diastolic or higher - in many cases, considerably higher. Blood pressure that is consistently above 140 over 90 is considered to be high. Normal blood pressure is around 120 over 80. In general, the lower the better."

He says the high blood pressure rate usually quoted for New Zealand is one in five adults. This information is from the 2002/03 New Zealand Health Survey, and uses self reported data.

"The findings from the recent blood pressure checks suggest the rates of high blood pressure may be much higher than the one in five figure, and much higher than people themselves think."

Dr Fink says high blood pressure is strongly related to stroke.

"Nearly 8000 people have strokes in New Zealand each year, and one third of these are attributable to high blood pressure.

"High blood pressure puts stress on the walls of the blood vessels and can cause them to break down, eventually leading to a stroke. It can also speed up common forms of heart disease that can lead to stroke, and cause blood clots or plaque to break off the artery walls and block a brain artery, causing stroke."

He says the Stroke Foundation encourages people to have their blood pressure checked regularly.

"If your blood pressure is found to be high, it can usually be controlled by a combination of diet, exercise and medication. And of course eating a healthy diet with reduced salt, having regular physical activity, not drinking too much alcohol and being smokefree will help keep blood pressure down."

Findings from the blood pressure checks:

Approximately 110 blood pressure check sites participated on Saturday 12 September. Of the around 12,000 people checked, 9417 results have been received and analysed by the Stroke Foundation.

The findings show:

5 percent of participants with raised readings had results in the severe hypertension range, ie, greater than 180 mm Hg systolic, with a number of these readings well over 200. This is of serious concern 80 percent could not recall their last blood pressure reading (their numbers) 52 percent had had a blood pressure test in the last 12 months 46 percent had elevated blood pressure readings. (Elevated readings were those 140 mm Hg and above for systolic, or 90 mm Hg and above for diastolic) 15 percent were referred to a GP or nurse as a result of their readings.

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