Reducing rates of high blood pressure by just a quarter could save 37,000 lives and $34.3 billion, experts say. 

Researchers at the George Institute for Global Health say that iff all Australians currently living with high blood pressure were properly treated, as many as 83,000 lives could be saved resulting in a $91.6 billion return.

Professor Alta Schutte says that although high blood pressure is a major cause of death and disease, there does not seem to be any urgency to address it in Australia.

“Globally, raised blood pressure is the leading risk factor for major adverse outcomes such as coronary heart disease, stroke and dementia,” she said.

“Given these conditions are the top three killers of Australians, raised blood pressure should be front and centre of the national health agenda, but instead attention is currently focused on better managing the diseases it leads to.”

In Australia, it is estimated that raised blood pressure is responsible for 43 per cent of coronary heart disease, 41 per cent of stroke, around a third of chronic kidney disease and atrial fibrillation and just under four percent of dementia cases.

“While managing these conditions is undoubtedly important, major public health impact is more likely to be achieved by improving awareness of and screening for high blood pressure and improving blood pressure control,” added Prof Schutte.

In recent decades, the prevalence of hypertension in Australia has lowered due to improved public health, but the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that only a third of blood pressure cases were under control in 2017-2018, implying that over two thirds of people with raised blood pressure in Australia were not properly managed. 

This situation has not improved for the past 10 years.

The Federal Government has put forth $40.5 million for a new Medicare Benefits Schedule item for 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure measurement to improve the diagnosis of hypertension, but experts say there is much more that could be done to address this pressing health issue.

They recommend a three-step roadmap to tackle the problem, including establishing a national taskforce on blood pressure, prioritising research funding and implementing various measures to improve population awareness, prevention and screening.