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Blood pressure: What’s your number?

Have you had your blood pressure measured? Get your number!

A woman has her blood pressure taken by a male doctor
A woman has her blood pressure taken by a male doctor

Australia’s blood pressure is on the rise. Since 2012, the number of adult Aussies with high blood pressure has increased by 7% – that’s an estimated 1.3 million people.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the leading risk factor for heart disease. However, it is often called the silent killer, given there are no signs or symptoms to indicate you may be suffering from it. That's why a blood pressure check can be critical to understanding your heart health.

This year, the Heart Foundation is encouraging people to have their blood pressure measured and take appropriate action.

A young man has his blood pressure taken by a female doctor

What’s blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure on the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps it around the body. Blood pressure is read in two numbers. The top number (systole) is when the heart pumps the blood and the bottom number (diastole) is when the heart relaxes and refills with blood. It is measured in millimoles of mercury (mmHg).

It naturally fluctuates, adjusting to the heart’s needs and what you are doing at the time.

It is a good idea to know what your normal blood pressure is, so make sure you ask each time you have it measured. If you do this regularly you will be able to quickly notice any changing trends in your blood pressure.

A blood pressure reading under 120/80mmHg is considered optimal while readings over 120/80mmHg and up to 139/89mmHg are in the normal to high normal range. If your readings are higher, you may be diagnosed with high blood pressure or hypertension. Because high blood pressure has no signs or symptoms, you could be feeling as fit as a fiddle; but leaving it untreated can lead to serious health problems like heart disease, stroke, kidney and blood vessel disease - even dementia.

The number of adult Aussies with high blood pressure has increased by 7% – that’s an estimated 1.3 million people

So what can I do about my blood pressure?

The good news is that high blood pressure can be treated and you can work with your GP, along with other health professionals to manage it. Some common ways to manage it may include regular physical activity, gaining and maintaining a healthy weight, reducing alcohol and salt intake, quitting smoking and in some cases, medication.

It’s important to remember that if your doctor prescribes blood pressure medication, it’s vital that you take it - and keep taking it, according to your doctor’s instructions, even if you are feeling quite well. If you are having trouble remembering to take your medication, discuss your options with a pharmacist or doctor.

nib is dedicated to helping our members who may have health challenges. If you are concerned about your heart health, or if you have any other serious health concerns, nib offers a number of Health Management Programs to eligible members with Hospital Cover who have served their waiting periods. Our programs are designed to help improve wellness, keep you out of hospital, improve your physical and mental wellbeing and aid a quicker recovery post-hospitalisation.

So, this heart week, see your GP for a blood pressure check. The only way of knowing whether your blood pressure is high is to have it checked. If your numbers are high, take action – it could save your life.

For more information on blood pressure and heart health visit the National Heart Foundation of Australia. To find about nib’s Health Management Programs, contact us on 1800 339 219 or email [email protected].

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