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29 October 2021

World Stroke Day: check your blood pressure

October 29 marks World Stroke Day. High blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke, so it’s a timely reminder to know your numbers.

One in five New Zealanders have high blood pressure. However, Stroke Foundation of New Zealand chief executive officer Jo Lambert said it’s estimated that a third of these people don’t know they are at risk of stroke because high blood pressure often has no symptoms.

“It’s recommended everyone over the age of 45 has a blood pressure check at least annually because high blood pressure is the number one modifiable risk factor for stroke. Stroke is New Zealand’s second biggest killer and our leading cause of serious adult disability,” Lambert said.

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Monitoring your blood pressure at home can help people keep their blood pressure under control. It’s also useful for people that have “white coat hypertension” – where their blood pressure shoots up at the thought of visiting the doctor.

Consumer NZ tested 12 home blood pressure monitors, ranging in price from $42 to $240.

Consumer NZ research and testing writer Belinda Castles said the accuracy of the monitors were compared with a hospital-grade machine. Six models were accurate enough to recommend.

She said there are several things to consider when buying a monitor, including whether you want one that syncs with an app so you can track results.

“If you’re sharing a monitor with someone else in your household, you’ll also want a model that has memory storage for two or more people,” she said.

Check out test results for all 12 monitors. It’s important you discuss the results with your doctor.

Consumer NZ’s top tips for lowering your blood pressure

  • Quit smoking: Smoking causes your arteries to narrow (like high blood pressure does). If you have high blood pressure and smoke, you increase your risk of stroke.

  • Move it: Physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight are important to reduce your risk. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week.

  • Limit alcohol: After a few drinks your blood pressure spikes. Regular heavy drinking can lead to long-term high blood pressure.

  • Eat less salt: Eating too much salt can increase your blood pressure. Many processed foods and takeaways are high salt options. On food labels, salt is listed as sodium. A low sodium option has less than 120mg of sodium per 100g.

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