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Thousands unaware of risk from high Blood Pressure

Media Release: 8 September 2008

Thousands unaware of risk from high Blood Pressure

The NZ Stroke Foundation urges New Zealanders to have a blood pressure test and reduce the risk of becoming a statistic of this country’s second single biggest killer and the leading cause of disability. Statistics show that thousands of kiwis are unknowingly suffering from undiagnosed high blood pressure - the single biggest risk factor for stroke.

The figures also reveal that this risk varies greatly across ethnicities, with Maori/Pacific and Asian ethnicities at much higher risk of some strokes at a younger age than NZ/Europeans.
To counteract this trend, the Stroke Foundation - working in partnership with Lions International – has launched a blood pressure campaign with a series of testing days throughout the country. As part of the “Take the Pressure Off Stroke” blood pressure awareness campaign, testing sites successfully took place on Saturday 6 September, with hundreds of kiwis getting blood pressure checks and advice. A further testing day will take place on Saturday 13 September. Testing days will offer free blood pressure checks, and advice on stroke and its prevention to people of all ages. Stroke does not discriminate and can happen to anyone at any time: one in four strokes occur amongst those under retirement age.

According to Stroke Foundation CEO, Mark Vivian: “People lead busy lives but getting your blood pressure checked is quick, simple and could change your life for the better. There is no doubt that blood pressure testing really can save lives. Nearly every hour someone in NZ has a stroke - that’s around 7,600 people every year. But nearly one of every three strokes could be prevented by the control of high blood pressure.
“We also know that thousands of kiwis are unaware of their blood pressure levels. These people have no idea they have high blood pressure and that their risk of having a stroke is therefore massively increased. High blood pressure can be reduced through medication and controlled by changes in diet and lifestyle. Take action, get tested and change your lifestyle - you may prevent a stroke.”

Most people can be treated effectively and benefit greatly from small but significant lifestyle changes. Cutting down on alcohol and salt, stopping smoking, reducing stress levels and leading a healthier lifestyle can all help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of stroke.
To find a blood pressure testing site near you, go to to see the latest list of sites.


Notes to Editor:
1. A stroke is a sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain, causing brain cell damage. Basically, it is a brain attack.
2. Stroke is the second single largest killer in New Zealand (more than 2000 people every year).
3. Stroke is the major cause of adult disability in New Zealand.
4. Every day, 20 New Zealanders have a stroke – that is about 7,600 people each year.
5. The Stroke Foundation has created a leaflet on blood pressure and the steps you can take to control it called “Take the pressure off stroke – Fact Sheet”.

6. Be blood pressure aware
It is vital that everyone has their blood pressure levels tested regularly as a healthy blood pressure level is important in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. Blood pressure is a measure of the force blood exerts on the arteries as it is pumped around the body. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). There are two measures of blood pressure and the optimal level is below 120/80 mmHg:

· Systolic blood pressure - this is the pressure the blood exerts on the arteries when the heart beats
· Diastolic blood pressure - this is the pressure the blood exerts on the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats

Causes of high blood pressure
High blood pressure is often caused by lifestyle and diet factors including smoking, stress, lack of exercise and poor diet. The risk of high blood pressure increases as you get older and is also above average in minority ethnic groups, especially in African Caribbean and South-Asian communities.

Controlling blood pressure
Blood pressure can be controlled via diet and lifestyle, for example:
- Limit your salt intake - eat less than 6g of salt each day
- Stop smoking
- Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day
- Reduce your fat intake, especially saturated fat
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Get active - aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity
- Watch your weight

7. The Stroke Foundation is New Zealand’s only organisation solely dedicated to reducing the risks of stroke, and improving outcomes for the stroke- affected.
8. Lions International is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders that provides humanitarian service, encourages high ethical standards in all vocations, and helps build goodwill and peace in the world. Members carry out this work in their community and/or overseas by giving their time and their expertise. A Lions Club is open to men and women who are business, professional or community leaders who want to use their experience for the benefit of others.

Stroke Foundation: “Reducing risk – improving outcomes”.

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