The ‘silent killer’ affects two out of three over-50s
People in Kildare have been urged to have their blood pressure checked as part of a new campaign to drive awareness of its dangers.
The Irish Heart Foundation’s ‘Before Damage is Done’ initiative highlights the link between high blood pressure and heart disease and stroke.
The ‘silent killer’ affects two out of three over-50s - but because it is symptomless, half do not know they have it.
Adults living in Kildare, and especially those aged over 50, are asked to have their blood pressure checked with their GP or local pharmacy.
Previous research shows Ireland has one of the lowest rates of awareness, treatment and control of high blood pressure in Europe.
Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director and Consultant Cardiologist with the Irish Heart Foundation, said thousands of people unwittingly go about their daily lives with high blood pressure.
“The only way of finding out is to get it checked with your GP or local pharmacy as you will, most likely, have no symptoms,” she said.
“It is one of the most important risk factors for heart disease and stroke but there are many factors that affect your risk.”
Core Research for the Irish Heart Foundation shows that while many people know that high blood pressure is a risk factor leading to the development of cardiovascular disease (such as heart disease and stroke), there is a lack of awareness of other serious outcomes – such as dementia, kidney disease and some forms of blindness.
Dr Brown said high blood pressure is one of the few conditions that people have the power to successfully manage – but only if they know they have it.
“Once detected, it is easily managed. Medication may be needed in addition to lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity, quitting smoking and embracing a balanced diet which limits salt intake. These changes can have a huge impact," Dr Brown added.
An active mother-of-four diagnosed with high blood pressure is supporting the drive and asking people to get checked.
“I thought I was invincible, but really, I could have been a ticking time bomb,” said gym receptionist Lynda Sutton, from Donabate in North Dublin.
“I thought I was healthy before, but I have completely changed my diet. I’m eating plenty of fruit and veg and no salt.
“If the dog was sick, I would take her to the vet but if I was sick, I would never go to the doctor. That’s changed now and I know how important it is to get your blood pressure checked," she added.
Her condition was discovered after the driver of the Irish Heart Foundation Mobile Health Unit parked near her local library in March and encouraged her to get a free heart health check.
The unit offers free heart health checks in communities across Ireland.
Orlaith Gavan, Medical Director, Pfizer Healthcare Ireland, said the campaign is “a really important reminder” for people to have their blood pressure checked.
“We are really pleased to support its Mobile Health Unit as it embarks upon its continuous journey across Ireland. With around 10,000 checks undertaken every year, thousands of people in every county have benefitted from the services of the Mobile Health Unit since its launch in 2016,” she said.
Dr David McConaghy, ICGP/HSE Integrated Care Lead for Prevention said: “The Irish College of General Practitioners supports this campaign to raise awareness about blood pressure and encourage people to attend their GP practice for a cardiovascular review.”
Susan O’Dwyer, Head of Professional Services at the Irish Pharmacy Union said: “The Irish Pharmacy Union is delighted to support this important initiative and we encourage people to get their blood pressure checked in their local pharmacy before damage is done.
“Pharmacies nationwide offer blood pressure testing and many also offer 24-hour blood pressure monitoring. Call to your local pharmacy today to learn more," he said.
See irishheart.ie for more information.