Get your blood pressure checked and beat “the silent killer”, urge NHS and local communities

People in Derby aged over 40 – particularly those at higher risk of cardiovascular disease – are being urged to get their blood pressure checked at their local pharmacy.

An advertising campaign is underway in the city aimed at encouraging hundreds more people to find out if their blood pressure is high – helping them to avoid a stroke or heart attack.

Adverts in shopping centres, newspapers and on local radio give the message “don’t be a ticking time bomb”, “know your numbers” and “getting your blood pressure checked is easy, and it could save your life”.

The awareness-raising drive follows the success of a project in the autumn which saw 4,113 people at high risk have their blood pressure checked by GPs, pharmacists and trained local community volunteers.

As a result more than 1,228 high or very high blood pressure readings were recorded.

People whose readings are high are offered advice and support to reduce their risk of the potentially devastating or fatal consequences of cardiovascular disease such as heart attack or stroke.

Evidence shows that people of Asian or Black and African Caribbean heritage have a higher than average risk of high blood pressure. Around 16% of people in Derby are of Asian heritage and 4% are of Black heritage, according to the 2021 Census.

High blood pressure has been reported in almost 70% of stroke patients and it causes half of all heart attacks, but it has no noticeable symptoms – leading it to be called “the silent killer”.

In Derby City Council area it is estimated that 9,656 people have undiagnosed high blood pressure, while in Derbyshire County Council it is 22,068 people.

A simple blood pressure test can indicate if someone’s blood pressure is too high. They then can be offered medication or lifestyle advice to lower it and significantly lower their risk of heart attack and stroke.

NHS Derby and Derbyshire has worked in partnership with local organisations Community Action Derby through the Derby Health Inequalities Partnership, with the city’s GP practices and with local community pharmacies to boost the numbers of blood pressure checks.

Research showed that four in 10 people didn’t know where to get a blood pressure check done locally, and most people weren’t aware of the range of services offered by local pharmacies, which include getting a blood pressure check free of charge.

Volunteers from local community groups organisations have been trained and provided with blood pressure monitors so they can do the checks in the places where people already visit regularly, such as at community events.

Communities supported through the project include people from the local South Asian population, Black Caribbean and African, Bosnian and Chinese populations, and people from the Deaf and blind communities.

Ailya Habib, of Community Action Derby, has led work to recruit and train volunteers in the city’s diverse communities.

She said: “People from minority communities often have worse health or are at greater risk of illness, yet they also often find it harder to access healthcare and advice.

“This project aims to tackle that by providing trusted community volunteers with the skills and training to support people in identifying high blood pressure.

“Knowing you have high blood pressure could save your life because you can then take medical advice and make lifestyle changes to reduce that risk.

“We have recruited and trained 55 community connectors since last autumn and they are now carrying out regular checks – helping to identify people who may be at risk and providing them with advice and support.”

One place where tests are offered regularly is the Pakistan Community Centre in Derby. Women and men meet on separate days to take part in exercise classes, to hear talks from local experts on looking after their health and to have a healthy cooked lunch.

Nosheen Ali, who runs events at the centre and has been trained to take the blood pressure tests, said: “We offer blood pressure checks at the Pakistan Community Centre because many people come there for events and activities.

“People are pleased to receive the checks because they know it can help to keep them healthy.

“As volunteers we are not medically trained so if a reading is high we signpost that person on to their local pharmacist. The pharmacist will confirm the reading and provide advice, or they may refer the person on to their GP.

“We can support people in reducing their blood pressure levels by providing advice on healthy eating and exercise.

“We will do that in a way that respects people’s culture and heritage, for example by providing healthy recipes of Asian food and supporting women’s only exercise groups.”

Dr Chris Weiner, medical director of NHS Derby and Derbyshire, said: “Stroke, heart attacks and cardiovascular disease are among the biggest causes of death and illness in our communities.

“Identifying people who have high blood pressure and supporting them to reduce their risk is key to helping people to live longer and more healthy lives.

“Working with local communities to monitor and manage their own health is vital to cutting the rates of early death and illness. It will also help to tackle the health inequalities we know exist among our communities.

“This project has been a great success in supporting people the NHS has traditionally struggled to reach.

“It gives us a way of working with local communities that we will now build on as we seek to support people to live healthier lives.”