Column: Blood pressure checks at Derbyshire's community pharmacies will be vital step forward
Around a third of adults have high blood pressure – and many do not even realise they have it, writes columnist Jackie Buxton, chief officer of Community Pharmacy Derbyshire.
Unless severe, high blood pressure has no symptoms and so the only way to know if you have it is to get a blood pressure test.
Getting that lifesaving blood pressure check will become a lot easier from October as community pharmacies across Derby and Derbyshire will be able to provide this for anyone aged 40 or over.
If untreated, high blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead to serious conditions such as heart attacks and strokes.
Although it is not always clear what causes high blood pressure, you are at greater risk if you:
Eat too much salt and not enough fruit and vegetables
Do not do enough exercise
Drink too much alcohol or coffee
Do not get much sleep or have disturbed sleep
Are over 65
Have a relative with high blood pressure
Are of black African or Caribbean descent
Live in a deprived area
Nationally it is estimated in the next five years that 3,700 strokes and 2,500 heart attacks could be prevented as a result of these tests and around 2,000 lives could be saved.
Predictions also show that if 2.5million people get their blood pressure checked in this way, an additional 250,000 people could receive lifesaving treatment for high blood pressure.
In Derby and Derbyshire, we have been piloting these tests since April 2021 in six pharmacies in Chesterfield and one in Derby, with the full rollout starting next month.
Community pharmacists will offer free blood pressure tests to people aged 40 and over. If the readings are normal, the pharmacist will share advice on healthy behaviours to help people ensure it stays that way.
If it is high, the community pharmacist will provide 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. This involves wearing a blood pressure monitor for 24 hours which takes readings every 30 minutes. You can continue with your normal daily activities and at the end of the 24 hours this gives the pharmacist information on how your blood pressure varies during the day.
If your blood pressure is still found to be high, you will be referred to your GP. Your GP can help you lower your blood pressure by advising lifestyle changes or prescribing medication.
All blood pressure measurements taken, whether normal, high or very high, are sent to your GP by the pharmacy so your patient record at the practice can be updated.
GPs can also ask local community pharmacists to measure the blood pressure of a patient for them. These could be patients already diagnosed with hypertension who due to work or other commitments are struggling to get to the surgery for an updated reading but can visit a pharmacy evenings or weekends.
The overall aim is for GPs and community pharmacists to work together to the improve the health of their communities by finding people who don’t know they have high blood pressure. This can then be managed and their risk of a stroke or heart attack reduced.