Australian blood pressure control rates labelled 'atrocious'

Leading heart experts are sounding the alarm over Australian’s blood pressure control rates, labelling them “atrocious” in comparison with international standards.

According to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW), about one in three (34 per cent) of Australians aged 18 and over is living with hypertension, or high blood pressure.

Of those people, only 32 per cent could be classed as having their blood pressure ‘under control’, which is defined as having a reading under 140/90.

Now, a major study published in the medical journal The Lancet has shown that Australia has fallen far behind other developed countries when it comes to rates of blood pressure control.

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For women, Australia (38 per cent) trailed Germany (58 per cent), the US (54 per cent) and Canada (50 per cent) but was comparable to the UK (37 per cent).

The situation for men is even worse, with Australia (28 per cent) sitting much lower than Canada (68 per cent), the US (49 per cent), Germany (48 per cent) and the UK (37 per cent).

Prominent cardiovascular experts are now calling on health authorities to implement stronger targets in order to improve the nation’s heart health. They say we’ve become complacent as a society when it comes to getting hypertension under control.

In an article for the Medical Journal of Australia, Professors Markus Schlaich, Garry Jennings, Aletta Schutte and Associate Professor Ruth Webster urge the government to make hypertension awareness and blood pressure control a national priority – as it is in other nations.

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“Australia had similar rates of hypertension awareness and treatment to the US in the 1990s, but over the past decades this has gradually declined, along with a plateauing of control rates,” the authors say.

“A significant degree of complacency has arisen in both cardiovascular research and the public health agenda regarding the need to improve [blood pressure] control.”

The report notes that when blood pressure control rates dropped from 54 per cent to 44 per cent in the US between 2014 and 2018, the Office of the Surgeon General made blood pressure control a priority and developed a roadmap to get national control rates up to 70 per cent. Control rates in the US continue to rise as a result.

In response, the group wants a national blood pressure control taskforce to be created with the goal of getting rates to 70 per cent, which would mean more than doubling the current rate.

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The group wants population-based screening, public awareness campaigns and more widespread access to reliable home blood pressure monitoring equipment.

One of the biggest problems with controlling blood pressure levels in Australia is that about half of people with hypertension are not even aware they have it.

“If you’re not aware of it, then you can’t do anything about it, so awareness is the first step,” Prof. Schutte says.

“Once that is covered, then you can start treating it. When you treat people and their blood pressure is not reduced sufficiently, then the treatment needs to be improved. And there are different ways of doing that. That’s where there’s a gap in Australia.”

Have you had your blood pressure checked recently? Do you think the government needs to do more to get blood pressure control levels up? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer

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