Public urged to avail of free blood pressure tests

Adults who haven’t had their blood pressure checked in the past year are being urged to do so now as part of a global initiative to screen 25m people in a single month.

One of the country’s foremost experts on hypertension said up to 30,000 people in Ireland are not aware they have high blood pressure.

Eoin O’Brien, adjunct professor of Molecular Pharmacology at UCD’s Conway Institute, said the International Society of Hypertension and the World Hypertension League were so concerned with the rate of increase in high blood pressure globally, that they decided to spend a month rather than a single day raising awareness and encouraging screening.

Traditionally, World Hypertension Day has taken place on May 17, but this year sees the introduction of May Measurement Month, with screening in about 100 countries in locations such as pharmacies, supermarkets, places of worship and clinics.

Prof O’Brien said raising awareness was vital “to stop stroke, heart attacks and dementia”.

Research has shown that the direct consequences of raised blood pressure include stroke, coronary heart disease, heart failure, dementia, and renal failure. Moreover, it is the biggest contributor to cardiovascular disease, yet often remains undiagnosed.

An article published in The Lancet last month highlighting the importance of having blood pressure measured said while it could be done “quickly, cheaply, and painlessly and can be treated cost-effectively” it nevertheless “receives insufficient attention from the general public, the medical profession, and health policy makers”.

This was perhaps “partly because hypertension usually has no related symptoms and is so common”, affecting about 24% of men and 20% of women.

The article also said that only about half of those with hypertension were aware of it, while fewer than a third who are treated reach the recommended blood pressure targets.

Hypertension is defined as that level of raised blood pressure for which guidelines usually recommend drug treatment.

In Ireland, a number of pharmacies, including Lloyds and Boots, are participating in May Measurement Month, as well as hospitals and Irish Heart Foundation outlets.

Prof O’ Brien said the hope was that Ireland will be a major contributor to the project.

The anonymised blood pressure data will be stored in a database.

The hope is that screening data will be used in collaboration with policy makers in each country to enhance blood pressure screening and treatment facilities.


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