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Health Matters: Combating high blood pressure

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Welcome to the latest edition of Health Matters, a resource for local authorities and health professionals, which focuses on improving the prevention, detection and management of high blood pressure.

While the link between high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease is well known, it often surprises people to learn that high blood pressure is actually the third biggest risk factor for disease and disability in England after smoking and poor diet.

Dubbed the “silent killer” as it rarely causes symptoms, high blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for cardiovascular disease and contributes to half of all strokes and heart attacks. It also increases the risks of developing dementia, heart failure and kidney disease.

Despite high blood pressure being responsible for around 75,000 deaths in England in 2015, it is all too frequently undiagnosed and under treated.

For every 10 people diagnosed with high blood pressure, 7 remain undiagnosed and untreated – accounting for more than 5.5 million people in England alone. And 1 in 3 people with diagnosed high blood pressure are not treated to target.

It is also estimated that high blood pressure costs the NHS £2.1 billion a year. This figure is even higher when you take into consideration the impact on the wider society.

The good news is that high blood pressure is preventable and we can all take steps to reduce the burden it places on the NHS.

Health professionals have a key role to play in encouraging people to lead a healthy lifestyle. Eating a healthy balanced diet, cutting back on salt, reducing the amount of alcohol consumed, and being physically active will all help to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure.

PHE’s One You campaign, aimed at people aged 40-60, can help to motivate people to take steps to improve their health.

Local authorities have a crucial role to play in making sure One You meets the needs of communities across the whole of England.

This edition of Health Matters explores why there is a gap in detection and treatment for high blood pressure. The most common time to have blood pressure measured is when visiting the GP surgery, but people often have several other priorities to discuss in appointments with their doctor or nurse.

General practice teams can overcome this by increasing opportunistic blood pressure testing in the practice and by making blood pressure testing routine in all nurse-led clinics such as asthma, COPD, diabetes, weight management, smoking cessation, as well as other local enhanced service clinics.

Expanding and improving coverage of the NHS Health Check, available to all adults in England aged 40 to 74, can also help to pick up more cases of high blood pressure.

A large scale national evaluation of the NHS Health Check found that it picked up 1 new case of high blood pressure in every 27 checks.

Read this edition of Health Matters for more on the actions that local authorities, GPs, pharmacists and community health teams can take to improve the prevention, detection and management of high blood pressure.

Download the infographics, slides and video content available with this edition of Health Matters and use them locally when commissioning or delivering blood pressure checks and NHS Health Checks.

Health Matters
Health Matters is a resource for professionals which brings together the latest data and evidence; makes the case for effective public health interventions and highlights tools and resources that can facilitate local or national action. Visit the Health Matters area of GOV.UK or sign up to receive the latest updates through our e-bulletin. If you found this blog helpful, please view other Health Matters blogs.

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