Jun 02, 2023

Almost 15% of all Australians have high blood pressure

The data also drew a concerning link between high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • The prevalence of high blood pressure increases with age, with almost four-out-of-five adults living with hypertension by the age of 75.
  • High blood pressure can be silent, so it’s important to get regular blood pressure checks and talk to a General Practitioner (GP).
  • Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to irreversible blood vessel damage, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke

Recent Heart Week data found that almost 15% of Australians had high blood pressure,  placing them at an increased risk of heart disease over the coming years.

The data came from a nationwide effort to measure the blood pressure of as many Australians as possible in one week and saw more than 800 older people have their blood pressure checked for free at a SiSU Health Station in Priceline pharmacies across the country in partnership with Heart Foundation.

Of concern was also the link between high blood pressure and diabetes risk, where almost 60% of people with high blood pressure also recorded a high risk of diabetes (also known as a high AUSDRISK score calculated by the Australian Type 2 diabetes risk assessment tool), which is another risk factor for heart disease.

“An incredible one in three Australian adults suffers high blood pressure – that’s 6.8 million people.”

There is no one specific cause of high blood pressure, but there are a number of things that can increase your chances of developing it, including: 

  • Eating patterns, particularly consuming too much salt
  • Unmanaged diabetes
  • Alcohol intake 
  • Smoking 
  • Weight 
  • Physical activity and exercise levels 
  • Quality of sleep

Your blood pressure can also go up temporarily due to stress, your emotional state, recent physical activity, caffeine consumption or even talking.

 A ‘normal’ blood pressure reading would be: 

  • Systolic blood pressure, the higher number and is the pressure of your heart contracting and forcing blood through your arteries, under 120 mm Hg  
  • Diastolic blood pressure, the lower number and is the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart is resting and filling with blood), under 80 mm Hg

Advice for older Australians

If you are an older person, you should see your GP for a Medicare-subsidised Heart Health Check.

High blood pressure can be treated through lifestyle changes and medicines. If you are an older person or have a chronic condition (for example, arthritis), your doctor will tell you which lifestyle changes are suitable for you.

People aged 65 and older should aim for some physical activity every week — preferably 30 minutes of moderate-intensity on most days. Any activity is better than none, and you can gradually build up to the target total. But if you experience any chest pain, palpitations or unexpected breathlessness during exercise, stop the activity and seek medical advice.

As well as limiting alcohol intake and avoiding smoking cigarettes, your diet plays a big part in managing high blood pressure.

It is recommended that everyone, of any age:

  • Eat five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit every day
  • Limit your fat intake to 20-to-35% of your total energy intake 
  • Consume healthy unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats
  • Reduce your salt intake to fewer than 4 grams per day (equivalent to 1600 milligrams per day of sodium) if you have high blood pressure. This is less than one teaspoon of salt

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