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Free blood pressure checks for staff can help save lives

Businesses across Bradford are being urged to sign up for free blood pressure checks in their workplace to help prevent strokes and heart attacks among their staff.

In support of World Hypertension Day on Friday 17 May, employers are encouraged to join May’s ‘Measurement Month’, which aims to educate and increase awareness of hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure.

Free blood pressure checks are being offered through a partnership between NHS Bradford City and Bradford Districts clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and the British Heart Foundation (BHF). They are carried out by HALE (Health Action Local Engagement), a healthy living charity based in Bradford. Trained teams visit local communities, including workplaces, across the district offering free blood pressure checks as part of the Bradford Healthy Hearts initiative.

For Bradford worker, David Myers, who lives in Keighley, the check “probably saved my life”.

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David volunteered for his free blood pressure check at his workplace, the Bradford Homeless Day Shelter, which he manages, to encourage others to get tested.

David said: “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I walk the dog so I thought I was fairly healthy and wasn’t really bothered about having the check done.”

That changed when David’s readings were very high and he was advised to go to his GP practice to have it checked again.

“My reading was even higher when the practice nurse checked it so they gave me a monitor to wear for 12 hours. The readings were a bit lower but still high so my GP recommended some tablets to lower it.”

However David didn’t take them and went off on holiday to America to visit his brother.

“I ruined the holiday because I was so short and snappy with everyone. At one point I made a big deal out of a problem with a subway ticket that wasn’t necessary and really upset my wife. Even my brother noticed that I wasn’t myself but because of my mood he didn’t know what to say to me.”

When David returned home he received a letter asking him to go to his GP practice for another blood pressure check.

“This time my wife was more determined than me and told me to go to the appointment. It wasn’t a surprise, this time, when my blood pressure was high, however it still wasn’t sinking in – even though there’s a history of heart disease in my family.

“But this time the doctor gave it to me straight. He said ‘you are not taking this seriously enough and if you don’t this will either be life changing or life ending.’ This time I listened. He prescribed some tablets and talked to me about other things I could do to help lower my blood pressure such as losing weight and getting more active.”

Like many people David put his symptoms down to the stresses of ordinary life. For him, it was starting a new job. The early starts, late finishes and longer hours changed his sleep habits so he put the constant headaches and irritability down to that.

“I don’t think I realised how unwell I was feeling until I compare how I feel now to last year. I was like a ticking time bomb. If I hadn’t volunteered to get my blood pressure checked I don’t know what would have happened. It saved my life.”

David still takes regular medication to keep his blood pressure at normal levels. He’s joined a gym, lost weight and is keen to lose more.

“I feel I was given a gift – my life – so I’m going to take care of it. I also want to encourage other people to get their blood pressure checked. If I can save somebody else too, then I’ll be happy.” 

The free blood pressure checks have found that more than one in six people in Bradford district may have undiagnosed high blood pressure. As part of the checks, over 500 people with high blood pressure readings have been advised to see their GP and around 20 people have been advised to do this within 24 hours as their blood pressure was worryingly high.

Dr Youssef Beaini, GP and clinical lead for cardiovascular disease for NHS Bradford City and Bradford Districts clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), said: “High blood pressure (hypertension) usually has no symptoms, but it is a contributing factor for at least half of all heart attacks and strokes and it is a major risk factor for kidney disease, heart failure and dementia.

“At the free blood pressure checks, you will be given your reading and the re-assurance that you’re fine, or advised to see your GP. It’s entirely up to you whether you follow the advice but there are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK each year, and often they could have been prevented. The effects can be devastating and even fatal. One in 14 deaths are caused by stroke and it is the fourth biggest killer in the UK.”

Organisations can nominate their workplace for the scheme by contacting either hannah.child@haleproject.org.uk or sara.malik@haleproject.org.uk or calling 01274 271088 and the team will arrange a convenient date and time to offer the free checks to employees.

Blood pressure checks

People in Bradford district can visit the following venues for a free blood pressure check:

GP practices across Bradford are working together as part of the extended access service, run by Bradford Care Alliance, to offer nurse and health care assistant appointments in the evening at three HUBs in Bradford for blood pressure checks, blood tests, asthma checks and cervical screening:

Evening appointments can be booked through the patients’ own GP practice.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) also has a partnership with Rowlands Pharmacies, where people can drop in any time to have their blood pressure taken.

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