Pharmacists well placed to detect high blood pressure

By June Shannon Heart News   |   13th Dec 2018

Pharmacy study identifies high blood pressure in one in four people

One in four people who had their blood pressure checked at their local pharmacy as part of a new study, were identified as having high blood pressure; a leading cause of heart attack and stroke.

According to the findings of a new pilot study by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), which aimed to detect people at risk of hypertension and atrial fibrillation in the community, one in four or 27 per cent were identified with high blood pressure, 5.5 per cent were found to have an irregular pulse and 2 per cent showed signs of both.

Furthermore 26 per cent were referred to their GP as a result of their check and 4 per cent of those were started on medication.

For the pilot study which was carried out during the summer in 68 community pharmacies throughout Ireland, 1,100 members of  the public aged 50 and older had their blood pressure and pulse checked in their local pharmacy.

Members of the public who received the health checks were also offered lifestyle advice as appropriate and referred to their GP, if necessary, using Irish Heart Foundation criteria.

The report found that a national roll out of population health checks for hypertension and atrial fibrillation in community pharmacies would have significant benefits.

Pfizer Healthcare Ireland supported the pilot study with an educational grant and the Irish Heart Foundation provided support materials and training for the pilot.

One in four or 27 per cent were identified with high blood pressure, 5.5 per cent were found to have an irregular pulse and 2 per cent showed signs of both.

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Speaking at the launch of the report today (Thursday 13 December) the President of the IPU Mr Daragh Connolly, said, “These findings are particularly important, especially when Irish data suggests that 64 per cent of people over the age of 50 have high blood pressure and that nearly half of those are undiagnosed. Regarding atrial fibrillation, research suggests an overall Irish prevalence estimate of 3 per cent atrial fibrillation in the over 50s.”

The service was seen as highly beneficial by both participants and pharmacists and easy to implement within the pharmacy environment. Overall, the majority of participants (83%) were happy with the information they were given by the pharmacist who undertook the health check. The pilot also raised participants’ awareness of blood pressure and pulse readings, as 91 per cent of participants said they were more aware of blood pressure and atrial fibrillation as a result of taking part in the pilot. Virtually all participants (98.5%) said they would recommend the health check to a friend and 99 per cent said they were happy to have taken part in the pilot.

“The Irish Heart Foundation was delighted to support this initiative,"

Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director, Irish Heart Foundation

Dr Angie Brown, Consultant Cardiologist and Medical Director, Irish Heart Foundation, said, “The Irish Heart Foundation was delighted to support this initiative. High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke and heart attack which affects almost one million people in Ireland. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common type of irregular heartbeat, with one in four people over the age of 50 at risk of developing it. People with untreated atrial fibrillation are five times more likely to have a stroke.”

Mr Connolly said “the pilot demonstrated that, by carrying out a standardised population health check for hypertension and atrial fibrillation in the community pharmacy, a highly accessible healthcare location, community pharmacists can deliver an extremely positive benefit to participants in terms of prevention, detection and initial management of suspected hypertension and atrial fibrillation. The pilot objectives aligned perfectly with Government priorities for the health service and we believe that the findings strongly support the roll-out nationally of an HSE-funded cardiovascular health check service.”

In just two years’ time it is expected that one quarter of the Irish population or more than 1.2 million adults will have high blood pressure, the leading cause of disabling stroke and heart disease. Therefore, the Irish Heart Foundation is urging people to get their blood pressure checked.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s mobile health unit has carried out 22,000 free blood pressure checks across the country in its first two years and the charity intends to conduct more than 10,000 further free checks in the coming year with the support of EUROSPAR Supermarket.

The mobile health unit has two professional consultation rooms where people can avail of free, non-invasive blood pressure checks. Nurses provide lifestyle advice and information on next steps including managing blood pressure and following up with a GP if necessary.

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heart attack high blood pressure mobile health unit Pharmacy stroke

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