Hypertension experts call for urgent action on transforming blood pressure control rates

25/03/2024 | 3 mins

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the greatest risk factor for Australia’s top three killers: coronary heart disease, stroke and dementia.

Despite this, Australia lags behind nations such as Germany, Canada and the US in blood pressure control rates.

Of the one-in-three Australian adults who have high blood pressure, only half of them know they have it and of that, only a third have it under control. This has major health equity and economic implications across Australia disproportionately affecting those in regional and remote areas.

The National Hypertension Taskforce confronted Federal Members of Parliament with the realities of these numbers within their own electorates, calling on MPs to be catalysts for change and take blood pressure control into their communities at a recent event at Parliament House in Canberra.

The taskforce is a joint initiative of the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance and Hypertension Australia, which has set the goal of increasing Australia’s controlled blood pressure from 32 per cent to 70 per cent by 2030. 

Its 25 members across the health spectrum include the Heart Foundation and Stroke Foundation as well as peak bodies, professional societies, clinicians, researchers and consumers with lived experience.

Taskforce Co-chair Professor Markus Schlaich, Dobney Chair in Clinical Research at UWA’s Medical School, encouraged MPs to lead by example, getting their own blood pressure checked and urging their constituents to do the same.

“May Measure Month is approaching, which is a global blood pressure awareness campaign to encourage everyone to get their blood pressure checked during May,” Professor Schlaich said.

“Let's start with getting our own blood pressure checked. Together, let's empower all Australians to know their numbers and take charge of their health.”

Belinda Bennett was 34 and pregnant with her first child when she realised one of the biggest dangers of high blood pressure – its silence. She felt completely fine but had life-threatening high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia – which, if untreated, could have caused both her and her baby to die.

A few years later, her husband was also told he had high blood pressure and advised to take medication by his GP. He also felt fine. He was fit and healthy and didn’t follow it up. At 53, he had a heart attack and cardiac arrest. He was lucky to survive.

Mrs Bennett said most people didn’t understand the importance of knowing and managing blood pressure. 

“But we need to change that,” she said. “We need people to understand just how important their blood pressure is and to get it regularly checked.”

Maria Vamvakinou MP and Senator Wendy Askew, Co-chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of Heart and Stroke Foundations hosted the Hypertension Taskforce event which was presented by the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance, Hypertension Australia, the Heart Foundation and the Stroke Foundation.

Media references

Liz McGrath, UWA Media Advisor, 08 6488 7975

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