Stroke Week!

Welcome to our Stroke Week section!

This year, Stroke Week runs from 2-8 October, with a focus on high blood pressure.

Did you know that high blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke? It's called the "silent killer" for good reason! These days, many experts reckon three-quarters of all strokes could be avoided, and maintaining a healthy blood pressure is a big part of that.

Stroke Week will culminate with our Big Blood Pressure Check - a chance for thousands of Kiwis to get a FREE blood pressure check at 200 sites around the country. See if there's a site for a free test near you.

Stroke Week Diary

Why don't you use this week to think about your blood pressure - most of us can do something to improve it.

It might look like this:

Monday: Try a new meal recipe, only using fish, chicken and/or fresh vegetables. Surprise yourself - it'll not only be tasty, but good for you! Try getting the family involved - it's fun. Afterwards, do the Stroke Wise quiz and see how much you know about stroke - it could help save a life.

Tuesday: Go through the pantry - look for packaged foods like soups, sauces, noodles that are high in salt, and throw them out. Healthy foods contain less than 120mg of sodium per 100g of food (don't worry, you can learn more about salt in food and how to read food labels here)

Wednesday: Try a good bit of exercise. It could be a walk, or run, or something new - maybe try badminton, squash, or go for a swim (indoors!) Round up your friends, family or flatmates and get moving! There's a goldmine of information on the Ministry of Health website.

Thursday: If you're a smoker, sit down with a calculator and add up the annual cost of your habit. Think of how you could spend that money on you and your family. Even the Stroke Foundation has former smokers on staff so we know it's not easy to quit - but you'll never regret it. All the inspiration you need is available from Quitline. If you're already smokefree, how's your drinking? The Health Promotion Agency page might make you think.

Friday: Instead of takeaway fish and chips, try making your own! There's a yummy, healthy recipe here courtesy of the Heart Foundation and Nadia Lim.

Saturday: Get your blood pressure checked at a site near you! Most New World and Pak'n Save supermarkets are taking part. If you don't manage to do anything else this week, please get a free check. It takes a minute, but could make a lifetime of difference.

Sunday: If your reading was in the healthy range - congrats! Take the day off and do the Stuff quiz. If you're at all worried about your reading, make a note to ring your doctor on Monday morning. If there's an issue, there's a good chance it can be addressed with some lifestyle changes or medication.


What is blood pressure?

As blood travels around our body it puts pressure on our blood vessel walls. Blood pressure measures this. Blood pressure is expressed as two numbers e.g. 120/80. Said as “120 over 80”.

The higher number is your Systolic Pressure (e.g. 120). This is the pressure on your blood vessel walls as your heart pumps.

The lower number is your Diastolic Pressure (e.g. 80). This is the pressure on your blood vessel walls as your heart rests between pumps.

Normal blood pressure is around 120/80, but lower is generally better, because the lower your blood pressure, the lower your risk of stroke.

If your blood pressure is consistently over 140/90, you have high blood pressure (hypertension) and will need to see a doctor for advice and treatment.

What is the relationship between high blood pressure and stroke?

High blood pressure is strongly related to stroke. It puts stress on the walls of blood vessels and can cause them to break down, which can lead to a stroke. It can also accelerate common forms of heart disease, or cause blood clots or plaque to break off the artery walls and block a brain artery, causing stroke. High blood pressure is often called a ‘silent killer’ because people can have high blood pressure without experiencing any symptoms.

How can I lower my blood pressure?

High blood pressure can usually be controlled by a combination of diet, exercise and medication.

You can help lower your blood pressure by:

  • Eating less processed food and more fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and lean meats
  • Eating less salt
  • Not smoking
  • Getting active – sit less and aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week

If you drink alcohol, keep your intake low – no more than two standard drinks for women and three for men. Aim for at least two alcohol free days per week.  And remember to have regular blood pressure checks.