As some of you may be aware and I have spoken a little about it over the last number of years on the blog and that is my pregnancy related blood pressure issues. I spent significant lengths of time on both pregnancies on bed rest, hospital visits and medication. While my blood pressure eventually returned to normal levels. I am well aware am I higher risk for problems into the future. I saw a brilliant initiative being run by LloydsPharamacy where they are run quarterly free blood pressure checks in any of their 94 stores nationwide. The importance of this short test cannot be under estimated. Early detection is key.
As part of the initiative, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak to Maria Hennessy MPSI, Clinical Governance Pharmacist at LloydsPharmacy. I put a number of key questions to Maria who kindly too the time to share her insights and helpful advice.
Tell us a little about what constitutes high blood pressure? Reading etc.
High Blood pressure is often referred to as hypertension when the correct medical term is used. A lot of you will wonder what exactly high blood pressure is. Blood pressure, in general, is the pressure or force the blood exerts against the walls of the arteries. It is usually represented as a systolic and diastolic figure. For example, a normal BP in an adult may be around 120/80mmHg (often described as 120 over 80). Hypertension i.e. High Blood pressure is a condition where BP is higher than recommended. Hypertension is defined as a sustained systolic pressure greater than or equal to 140mmHg and/or a sustained diastolic pressure of greater than or equal to (≥) 90mmHg. It is these readings that health care professionals use to diagnose whether or not a patient has high blood pressure. It is also important to note that these figures need to be sustained readings for the patient to be diagnosed as being hypertensive. Therefore repeated measurements must be carried out by your pharmacist and GP before a correct diagnosis can be made
Are there any signs/symptoms we need to be aware of? Such as headaches etc.
Unfortunately there are no specific signs or symptoms that help patients flag that they may have high blood pressure. Therefore getting your blood pressure checked is key to ensuring you are looking after your heart health. An important statistic to note is that approximately 50 percent of the population over the age of 50 are thought to have high blood pressure. As you increase in age you are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure. The general rule of thumb is once you reach 30, you should get your blood pressure checked every 5 years, at least! Undetected high blood pressure can lead to coronary heart disease and stroke. Therefore why would you put off doing a very simple, painless test that could detect further heart implications down the line?
I think the initiative by LloydsPharmacy is fantastic as I have heard high BP being known as the silent killer. If somebody does get a high reading what do you recommend the next steps are for them?
The next steps to take depend on the patient’s high BP reading. If the reading is classed as slightly high, it is strongly recommended to return to the pharmacy or GP within 2 weeks for a second reading. Lifestyle factors will also be discussed. If the reading is relatively high, then the pharmacist refers the patient to the GP within 48 hours of testing. If a patient presents with extremely high blood pressure, then this is an instant GP referral and may require emergency services if the patient is feeling unwell. Therefore the action to take depends on the individual readings and stresses the importance again of getting your blood pressure checked. Your pharmacist and GP will best advise based on the readings.
I had serious BP problems on both of my kids resulting in lengthy hospital stays. Thankfully it went back to normal a couple of months after each was born. However I am aware this places me in a high risk category for future BP issues, what advice would you give to keep heart healthy for people like me?
This is a very good question as many people of your age, especially busy Mums may not prioritise their heart health. It is essential to keep active and it is recommended 150 minutes exercise a week is essential to keep active and heart healthy. This also ties in with ensuring we are maintaining a healthy BMI which reduces our risk of high blood pressure. The very obvious factors are quitting smoking and reducing our alcohol intake. A diet rich in Omega fats is essential for our heart health and also benefit’s our children’s health so try and include eggs, oily fish, flax seeds, chia seeds and almonds into the diet. As we become more coffee obsessed as a nation our intake of caffeine has greatly increased. Caffeine is a stimulant and if consumed excessively can increase our blood pressure. Try and switch to decaffeinated options where possible. Stress goes hand in hand with a busy lifestyle. Managing stress is essential to reducing the risk of high blood pressure. Yoga, mindfulness and even short and simple breathing sequences greatly aide in stress reduction. It is all about balance but by incorporating a few changes in your daily routine, you are ensuring you are on the right track to maintaining heart health.
If you wanted The Mamma Fairy readers to take away 3 key points from this interview in terms of helping their overall heart health what would they be?
- I have touched on this throughout but getting your blood pressure checked is essential. Remember there are no symptoms to high blood pressure so detection is vital.
- Your local LloydsPharmacy offers this service and usually requires no appointment or service charge. This check is very accessible and takes 20 minutes, approximately, for a consultation to be carried out. We in LloydsPharmacy have fully trained colleagues who provide this service on a daily basis across our 90 plus pharmacies.
- Diet and Lifestyle are the core to maintaining a good blood pressure reading. However for some patients, genetics play a hand in having high blood pressure. Hence it is important to be aware of your family history and the need to get your blood pressure checked as soon as possible.
Keep on eye on social media and online on LlyodsPharmacy website for details of their next blood pressure testing day. Thanks to Maria for taking the time to speak to me and share her expert insights.
Most importantly this is not a sponsored post in any way it is just something I feel very strongly about as after all the old adage remains true – “your health is your wealth” and looking after it should be top of your agenda.