Brits over 40 set for free life-saving NHS heart checks on the high street

MANY Brits over 40 are set to get free life-saving NHS checks on the high street that could save their heart.

Blood pressure tests will be available in England's pharmacies from October, health chiefs have announced.

NHS England said an estimated 2,000 lives could be saved in the next five years by the full rollout.

An additional 3,700 strokes and 2,500 heart attacks could be prevented by the programme.

High blood pressure, called hypertension, puts pressure on the heart and blood vessels.

Not only does this increase the odds that someone will suffer a heart attack, heart failure or stroke, but kidney disease, vascular dementia and peripheral arterial disease.

The problem is few people with high blood pressure know, because there are very rarely any symptoms.

Only sometimes will the condition cause headaches, nosebleeds, fatigue, confusion, chest pain, difficulty breathing and blood in the urine.

The NHS says around a third of adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many will not realise it.

Estimates from the British Heart Foundation in 2019 said that some four million people under the age of 65 in the UK are living with untreated high blood pressure, of which 1.3 million are in those under 45.

Hypertension can only currently be diagnosed by getting a measurement at the GP.

But with blood pressure readings coming to local pharmacies, it could lead to an estimated extra 250,000 people receiving treatment.

The programme has been in pilot since autumn 2019.

But with a full rollout, it will mean “more rapid detection of killer conditions and quicker treatment for patients who need it”, said NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis.

He added: “Pharmacies are in the heart of communities and so they are ideally placed to provide these convenient checks – so, if you are worried about your health, please do get tested – it could save your life.”

Dr Shahed Ahmad, national clinical director for cardiovascular disease prevention, said community pharmacists are “ideally placed to deliver this life-saving work”.

Dr Ahmad said: “Cardiovascular disease claims 136,000 lives a year and is a major cause of health inequalities, with about half of heart attacks and strokes are associated with high blood pressure.

“The detection and control of high blood pressure is one of the best things we can do to save lives and reduce health inequalities.”

Are you at risk of high blood pressure?

Blood pressure does not always have a clear cause.

But based on people with it, it's known you might be more at risk if you:

  • are overweight
  • eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables
  • do not do enough exercise
  • drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
  • smoke
  • do not get much sleep or have disturbed sleep
  • are over 65
  • have a relative with high blood pressure
  • are of black African or black Caribbean descent
  • live in a deprived area

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