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Stroke is the second biggest cause of death in Australia and a major cause of disability - and people living outside major cities need better services and support to protect their health, National Stroke Foundation CEO Erin Lalor said.
Dr Lalor said the Australian Social Trends report, Health outside major cities, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this week, confirmed that while overall life expectancy in Australia continued to climb, serious inequities existed between Australians living in major cities and those who did not.
“The report says that in 2008, people who lived outside major cities were twice as likely as people who lived in major cities to die from a range of illnesses, including high blood pressure,” Dr Lalor said.
“High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke – but through lifestyle changes and treatment it can be managed by those people at risk. The issue facing people in regional and remote areas is access to services. This is compounded by the fact that general knowledge about blood pressure is poor.”
The ABS report also revealed that while dying from a stroke was the second most common cause of death in those who lived in major cities and those who did not, it was 31 per cent more likely to be a cause of death outside major cities.
“It’s vital that public education community campaigns are funded to help people recognise the warning signs of stroke, take action without delay, which will ultimately save lives,” Dr Lalor said.
The independent Birch Review of cardiovascular disease recommended that public education campaigns should be supported to help people recognise the signs of heart attack and stroke and seek emergency treatment. The National Stroke Foundation looks forward to the federal Government’s response to the Birch Report in the near future.
“Understanding your blood pressure level is a critical step towards avoiding stroke,” Dr Lalor said.
“The National Stroke Foundation has been running a community-based blood pressure check program called ‘Know Your Numbers’ in a range of pharmacies throughout Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.”
“With the gaps in health outcomes identified by the ABS report, it shows how important it is that community blood pressure check programs such as Know Your Numbers are adequately resourced so that they can be extended throughout Australia, especially in regional and remote areas.”
For more information go to www.strokefoundation.com.au
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