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Blood Pressure

Hypertension which is the biggest single contributor to poor health in Australia is more common in rural communities and treatment is less successful than in the city.

A report on the ABC health website says hypertension is a silent condition as people with high blood pressure often don’t feel unwell.

The report refers to a study at Charles Sturt University which put the rate of hypertension in one rural community at 58 per cent of 50 to 75-year-olds based on a study in the journal Clinical and Experimental Hypertension.

The researchers studied a group of 674 people from in and around Albury. Thirty-seven per cent had been diagnosed with hypertension in the past and 21 per cent were found to have undiagnosed hypertension.

According to the report the high prevalence of hypertension, at 58 per cent, is considerably higher than the average for Australian adults, which other studies have put at 28 to 42 per cent, but which is probably closer to around 30 per cent, the researchers say.

Of the Albury participants who were known to have hypertension, only about 43 per cent were actually being treated with blood pressure lowering medication. And of these, fewer than half had a normal blood pressure – defined as 140 mm Hg (systolic) and 80 mm Hg (diastolic) or lower. In other words, less than half were getting optimal treatment.

The report found the reason hypertension is higher in country people could be due to higher levels of stress in rural communities from drought and economic hardship. They also suggested that country people, especially men, are less likely to want to see a doctor when they fall ill, and are less likely to keep the treatment going.

The following information is produced with permission from www.yourhealth.net.au

Lifestyle changes to reduce BP

The Heart Foundation recommends you:

  • Lose weight, if necessary. Blood pressure reduces by an average of 2 points for each kilogram lost.
  • Get regular exercise, at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days.
  • Reduce alcohol. Set a limit of 2 standard drinks per day or less.
  • Reduce salt. Use salt-reduced processed foods and cut down on added salt.
  • Stop smoking. Smokers with raised BP have 3-4 times the risk of heart attack and stroke compared to non-smokers.
  • Eat a healthy, low fat, well balanced diet.
  • Blood pressure medication

If you cannot reach your target with these changes, your doctor may advise medication. Although you will start with a small dose of one medicine, most patients require a combination of 2 or 3 different drugs later on.

Most people on treatment experience no side effects and lead normal lives. Side effects are often temporary. However, if they do persist, inform your doctor so that an alternative drug can be tried.

Tablets for hypertension will usually need to be taken for life, as medication only controls the pressure and does not cure it. Try to keep up with the lifestyle changes to minimise the amount of medication needed.

Never stop your tablets without checking with your doctor and have regular BP checks.

Speak to your doctor for more information, or ring Heartline on 1300 362 787, or visit http://www.heartfoundation.com.au.