Record numbers of people have high blood pressure and thousands may be at risk of heart attack or strokes, new research suggests.

Experts examined the medical records of 532,050 Australian patients who visited GPs between 2005 and 2010 and found 36 per cent, had high blood pressure.

At least 250,000 patients did not meet individual blood pressure targets, placing them at risk of future heart attacks or strokes.

The organisation that carried out the research, Melbourne-based Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, said the study should kick-start new measures to curb high blood pressure.


"Overall, these data reaffirm our concern that the number of people suffering from high blood pressure in Australia remains at historically high levels," Baker IDI's Professor Simon Stewart said.

"... We can only hope that our study provides the impetus for an improvement in blood pressure levels leading to a reduction in highly preventable events such as heart attack and stroke."

The study found that taking medication for high blood pressure did not automatically mean patients were at lower risk of serious illness.

Those with persistently high blood pressure also need to make lifestyle changes, it found.

The study found more men than women suffered high blood pressure.

Younger men, aged between 23 and 34, are said to be three times more likely to suffer from the problem than women in the same age group.

Baker IDI's research was funded by an unrestricted grant from drug firm Boehringer Ingelheim, which meant it had no input into the findings.