This week pharmacies across the area are offering free tests so people can check they do not have high blood pressure. Health reporter Priya Mistry spoke to a doctor to find out why it is such an important topic.
The daily stresses of life, exercising less and eating foods high in salt and sugar can all lead to high blood pressure.
Known as a silent killer, many people can carry on their daily business without realising they may have a condition that could lead to severe health problems.
This week charity Blood Pressure UK is urging people of all ages to stop by one of its ‘pressure stations’ to get themselves checked out.
Know Your Numbers runs until September 21, and aims to raise awareness of blood pressure and the related health risks should you have high blood pressure.
Dr Andy Plane is a GP at the Crookhorn Surgery, in Crookhorn Lane, Waterlooville, which runs a coronary heart disease and diabetes clinic.
Dr Plane is also advising people to get their blood pressure checked, and explains what the numbers mean.
He says: ‘We have been running this clinic for quite a while because we want to pick people up earlier and then help manage their blood pressure, so it doesn’t go on to anything more serious.
‘The pressure in the blood in your arteries should be kept within certain parameters – 140/90.
‘Anything lower than 100/50 would be deemed as low blood pressure.
‘If it’s higher than this then it’s known as hypertension.
‘The top reading is known as the systolic blood pressure.
‘It is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats to pump blood around the body and provide oxygen.
‘The lower reading is the diastolic blood pressure. It is the lowest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart relaxes between beats.’
When your heart beats, it pumps blood round your body to give it the energy and oxygen it needs.
As the blood moves, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. The strength of this pushing is what makes up a blood pressure reading.
If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your arteries, and in turn your heart, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
But that’s not all.
Dr Plane says: ‘As well as heart attacks and strokes, there are other health problems this can cause.
‘It can lead to kidney damage, as arteries leading up to them and out become damaged, and it means more strain for the organ.
‘It can also cause problems for the back of the eyes as well.
‘A lot of high blood pressure cases are related to lifestyle factors.
‘Smokers have an increased risk, those who take in a lot of alcohol, those who are overweight and diabetes, and also those with a family history.
‘Smoking causes constriction of the blood vessels, and over time that pressure builds up.
‘If we can start to tackle those factors first, then we could prevent high blood pressure, or the need for people to be treated with medication.’
Pharmacies across the south coast have signed up to offer free blood pressure checks to people of all ages.
Katharine Jenner, chief executive officer of the charity, says: ‘In the UK, 16m people have high blood pressure, but worryingly only half of them are aware of this and are being treated.
‘These “missing millions” are a ticking time bomb; putting themselves at high risk of having a stroke or a heart attack.
‘However luckily, if detected high blood pressure can be successfully managed and returned to a healthy level, which is why we are urging everyone of all ages to go along to our “pressure stations” this month and get to know their numbers.
‘Our results from last year showed only 29 per cent of people aged 16 to 34 knew their blood pressure numbers compared to 38 per cent aged over 55, so we still have a lot of work to do so this year.’
The charity said having high blood pressure is responsible for 60 per cent of strokes and 40 per cent of heart attacks.
It is also a risk factor for kidney disease and dementia.
- To find out more, visit bloodpressureuk.org
Where to go for a check
PHARMACIES across the area have signed up to become a ‘pressure station’.
Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Blood Pressure UK, says: ‘It’s great so many organisations are taking part in Know Your Numbers Week 2014.
‘With our busy lifestyles, many people are unaware that they have high blood pressure, especially in the younger generation, so there is a real need to raise awareness.
‘The free checks will be offered across the UK in pharmacies, supermarkets, libraries, hospitals, GP surgeries, health clubs, leisure centres and even football grounds. We are grateful to all the organisations that support this campaign as these free and quick checks could really be saving lives. We hope this year will be the busiest yet.’
Here is a list of pressure station pharmacies taking part in the awareness week:
- Lalys pharmacy, Fawcett Road, Southsea.
- Copnor Pharmacy, Copnor Road, Portsmouth.
- Lalys pharmacy, Kingston Road, Portsmouth.
- Lalys pharmacy, London Road, Portsmouth.
- Redeemed Christian Church of God, Discipleship Centre, Clarence Street, Southsea.
- City Pharmacy, London Road, North End, Portsmouth.
- Asda pharmacy, Gosport.
- Asda pharmacy, Purbrook Way, Havant.
- Asda pharmacy, the Bridge Shopping Centre, Fratton, Portsmouth.
- Asda pharmacy, Portland Road, Waterlooville.
What the patients say
PATIENTS from Crookhorn Surgery shared their blood pressure readings with The News.
Ken Adams, 84, of Timber Lane, Crookhorn, a retired engineer.
- Blood pressure reading: 138/74
He says: ‘I was having a general check-up with Dr Andy Plane and he checked my blood pressure and told me it was high.
‘That was in 2003 and since then I have been on medication. I have accepted the treatment and my wife looks after me well, she makes sure I take my medication, so things are looking good.
‘I’m very grateful to the surgery for looking after me, and I’m pleased with my latest reading.’
Joan Adams, 80, of Timberlane, Crookhorn, volunteer radio station presenter.
- Blood pressure reading: 128/68
She says: ‘I have medication and I’m really happy with my blood pressure reading.
‘I like to keep active and I host a radio programme on Angel Radio – I have been doing that for 14 years.
‘I would like to share with listeners how important it is to have your blood pressure checked often, especially if you think you are at risk.’
Janet White, 69, of Park Road, Widley, who used to hand rear baby parrots.
- Blood pressure reading: 138/76
She says: ‘I was diagnosed 30 years ago and have angina.
‘It runs in the family and my granddad died aged 54, and he had very high blood pressure.
‘I was feeling a dull ache on my shoulder, and so I went to see my doctor. My blood pressure reading came up at 200/120.
‘I’m on tablets now and I’m happy with my reading.’
Janet Flynn, 75, of The Crest, Widley, retired.
- Blood pressure reading: 128/72
She says: ‘I had two heart attacks 13 years ago, and had them out of the blue.
‘I did have pains before then, but had just kept it to myself.
‘We have a family history of high blood pressure, so I should have checked sooner.
‘But this is a great practice and I’m happy with my reading now and all the help I get.’
Paul Flynn, 77, of The Crest, Widley, retired Portsmouth Naval Base worker.
- Blood pressure reading: 134/72
He says: ‘I had gone to the doctors for another reason and at the same time my blood pressure was taken.
‘It came up high and so I had more readings done to make sure it wasn’t a one-off.
‘I am now on medication and very happy it was picked up when it was.’