‘Ticking time bomb’ being overlooked

A common health condition that the Heart Foundation refers to as a “ticking time bomb” is being largely ignored by 99 per cent of Australians.

Australians are being implored not to discount the dangers of high blood pressure, with new research suggesting people don’t take seriously enough “the ticking time bomb behind almost half of cardiovascular disease deaths”.

A survey of 3633 Australian adults asked how they would reduce their risk of heart disease. Just 1 per cent said they would try to lower or monitor their blood pressure.

With COVID-19 mortality rates increasing for those with hypertension – usually defined as blood pressure above 140/90, considered severe if above 180/120 – the heart health organisation says it’s never been more important for people to keep it in check.

Evidence suggests that those with high blood pressure may be more vulnerable to serious complications if infected with the COVID-19 virus compared to the general population.

High blood pressure often has no symptoms, but, if untreated, can also cause health conditions, such as irreversible blood vessel damage or increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

The Heart Foundation says too many Australians are putting their health at risk by not being aware of how much harm high blood pressure can do to their hearts.

“High blood pressure is known as a silent killer because there are often no obvious signs or symptoms, yet it puts you at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke,” said Heart Foundation risk reduction manager, Natalie Raffoul. “The only way to find out if you need to do something about your blood pressure is to have it checked regularly.

“The good news is high blood pressure can be controlled through lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, keeping active, limiting alcohol, eating a healthy diet and being smoke-free. In more serious cases, it can be managed with medications.

“If you have high blood pressure, now is an important time to look after it. This includes continuing to take your medications as prescribed, following a heart-healthy lifestyle, and staying in touch with your GP.”

When asked how to reduce the risk of heart disease, most of the survey respondents nominated exercise (69 per cent) or a healthy diet (65 per cent).

“A healthy lifestyle is important, but it’s also important to keep an eye on clinical risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Close to one in two heart disease deaths are attributable to high blood pressure, so knowing your risks and keeping your blood pressure within a normal range is a key part of protecting your heart,” said Ms Raffoul.

“If you’re 18 or over, the Heart Foundation recommends that you get your blood pressure checked at least every two years. If you are 45 and over, you should get your blood pressure checked as part of a regular, comprehensive Heart Health Check.”

The Heart Foundation has released a simple infographic to help Australians monitor their blood pressure at home, but those monitoring their levels in lockdown should ensure they are using a suitable machine before rolling up their sleeves.

heart foundation infographic showing how to monitor blood pressure at home

Source: Heart Foundation

“Many of the devices sold online are not validated, so ensure you’re using an approved machine if monitoring your blood pressure at home between doctor’s appointments,” said Ms Raffoul.

“Wrist and finger blood pressure measuring devices are not recommended and can potentially affect the accuracy of your readings. Check the British Society of Hypertension website for a list of validated devices, or buy from a trusted source like your local pharmacy.”

Worried about your blood pressure? Visit the Heart Foundation website or call the Helpline on 13 11 12.

Do you have high blood pressure? Are you concerned about it more now than ever?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.


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