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Simple check reduces risk of heart disease

People in the North East and North Cumbria are being encouraged to get their blood pressure checked to help prevent heart disease, strokes as well as a range of other health conditions.

The advice comes on World Hypertension Day (17 May) which aims to raise awareness of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, and a reminder that this is a preventable and treatable condition that can be managed with the right support and care.

High blood pressure can occur naturally with age, but lifestyle choices including poor diet, obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, excessive alcohol, and increased salt intake are all contributory factors. High blood pressure is considered to be from 140/90mmHg (or an average of 135/85mmHg at home) – or 150/90mmHg (or an average of 145/85mmHg at home) if you're over the age of 80.

Dr Raj Bethapudi, North East and North Cumbria clinical lead for cardiovascular disease prevention and a GP said: "Keeping an eye on your blood pressure with regular blood pressure checks is vital, especially as people age. High blood pressure, in the vast majority of cases, causes no symptoms so it’s important for people to get checked but also to know what the numbers mean, as when left untreated it can be fatal. The ideal blood pressure for adults is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, while the target for over-80s is below 150/90mmHg (or 145/85mmHg at home).

"Many community pharmacies now offer blood pressure checks and if anyone is concerned they should contact their local GP surgery. Often appropriate medication can stabilise the condition and help reduce the risk of further ill health."

It is estimated that 5.5 million people in England live with undiagnosed high blood pressure. The NHS recommended that all adults over 40 have their blood pressure tested at least every five years and ideally every year if your blood pressure is borderline, or you have any lifestyle risk factors, so any potential problems can be detected early.

For people aged over 40, you can have a blood pressure test done as part of an NHS Health Check, which is offered to adults in England aged 40 to 74 every 5 years. If you have been diagnosed with high or low blood pressure, or you have a high risk of developing either, you may need more frequent checks of your blood pressure. Blood pressure testing is available at your local GP surgery, some pharmacies and with some testing being available in gyms and workplaces.

Cardiovascular disease is a clinical priority for the NHS and the single biggest condition where lives can be saved over the next 10 years. Currently, the NHS England target for patients in an area to have their high blood pressure controlled is 77%, NHS North East and North Cumbria is leading the way in working towards this target, with one of the highest levels in the country at 67%.

Dr Neil O'Brien, executive medical director for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board said:  "Prevention is key to keeping people in good health. Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions such as heart disease, strokes, vascular dementia and more.

"We are leading the way as a region in getting people's blood pressure checked but we still need more people to get tested. The performance of testing in the North East and North Cumbria bears testimony to the hard work of many GP practices and local pharmacies identifying and supporting treatment of high blood pressure - many thanks for everyone's continued efforts." 

Further information about high blood pressure is available on the NHS website. If people have concerns about their blood pressure they should contact their local GP surgery or nearest pharmacy.

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