WHEN Denison MP Andrew Wilkie attended Australia’s Biggest Blood Pressure Check 12-months-ago he never expected to receive bad news.
“It was totally out of the blue,” Mr Wilkie said.
“I was asked to help raise awareness, but the last thing I expected was to have a high blood pressure reading.
“I have had normal blood pressure my entire life, so I was very surprised and quite concerned.”
More than 100,000 Tasmanians are living with high blood pressure, putting them at serious and unnecessary risk of stroke – and many don’t even know it.
Spurred into action and on advice, Mr Wilkie bought a blood pressure monitor from his local pharmacy to keep an eye on his readings, as well as booked an appointment with his general practitioner.
He was eventually diagnosed with a mild form of hypertension.
On 6 May, the National Stroke Foundation, in partnership with Chemmart Pharmacy, once again hosted Australia’s Biggest Blood Pressure Check.
Held annually, the campaign delivers free checks around the country to raise vital awareness of the risks associated with stroke.
National Stroke Foundation chief executive officer Dr Erin Lalor said the Foundation delivered more than 10,000 checks, potentially saving thousands of lives in the process.
“One in six people will have a stroke in their lifetime; these people are you, your family, your friends, your colleagues,” she said.
“The brutal reality of stroke is that it will change your life in an instant.
“One day you could be busily going on with life working, caring for your family, then suddenly you are struck down by a stroke and facing possible death or an ongoing disability that may limit your ability to walk, talk and even think.”
Knowing the silent and deadly nature of high blood pressure, Mr Wilkie returned to Australia’s Biggest Blood Pressure Check this year to show his support and share his story.
“The health professional who took my blood pressure last year was there again and I was keen to tell her my story and to thank her,” Mr Wilkie said.
“She was obviously thrilled to have helped someone and I’m pleased to say my blood pressure readings are all perfectly fine now.”
Mr Wilkie said that since his initial blood pressure check he has paid greater attention to his health, buying a Fitbit and always looking for opportunities to get out and walk around.
“My goal was to reach 10,000 paces a day and I’m proud to say I have achieved this, which is about double the average for males my age,” he said.
“I’m on a low dose blood pressure tablet, I’ve lost a few kilos and I’m all better.”
Mr Wilkie said there were some important lessons to be learned from his experience, as the process of discovering his condition was “reasonably straightforward and simple.”
“All that was needed was the initial awareness of the importance of regularly checking your blood pressure,” he said.
“The National Stroke Foundation’s Australia’s Biggest Blood Pressure Check is a practical opportunity for people to evaluate their health, which is no small thing.
“I look after myself and have regular check-ups, so if a person in my circumstance can have high blood pressure then so can many other people.
“I feel that talking out publicly and sharing my story will hopefully prompt people to get checked.”
For more information, visit www.strokefoundation.com.au