Half of Britons at risk from heart disease

More than half the people tested in a national pharmacy initiative to identify the threat of high blood pressure were found to be at risk according to new research launched today at the British Pharmaceutical Conference.

The survey by Moss Pharmacy revealed a further shock in that, of the 1,675 patients who had their blood pressure checked, more than two thirds (68%) were aged between 16-64 - and less than a third (32%) were over 65, the age associated by many as the turning point for heart disease risk.

The at-risk patients were found to have a combination of dangerous factors that could put them at risk of high blood pressure, such as having diabetes, being a smoker, and/or having had a previous stroke. The survey, carried out as part of the Blood Pressure Association's National Blood Pressure Testing Week 2003, also found that a quarter (24%) of those patients considered at risk had blood pressure readings that required further investigation or treatment.

High blood pressure can lead to coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, renal failure and other non-fatal complications. Chris Street, Moss Pharmacy’s Health and Pharmacy Advisor, said: “Many people, especially the younger population, are totally unaware that they either actually have high blood pressure, or have a combination of factors that place them at serious risk of developing heart disease. They, therefore, may make health and lifestyle choices that are adding to their risk.

“More than 120,000 people die from heart disease every year in the UK,” Mr Street explained. “People simply can’t afford to gamble with their health. All of us need to be aware of how we can look after ourselves through diet, exercise and lifestyle choices to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Anyone who suspects they are at risk from high blood pressure should seek advice from their pharmacist or GP.”

The Government’s action plan, Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation, aims to reduce the death rate due to coronary heart disease and stroke in people under 75 by at least two fifths by the year 2010: a saving of 200,000 lives nationwide. The plan includes identifying all patients with high blood pressure so advice and treatment can be provided. The National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease includes two areas where the community pharmacies can play an important role:

1. Identification of all people with established cardiovascular disease 2. Identification of all people at a significant risk of cardiovascular disease

This research shows that a blood pressure testing service can be successfully run in community pharmacies. Patients identified as being at risk were referred for further tests and treatment where appropriate.

A further study A further study presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference this week showed that pharmacist-managed treatment for high blood pressure can provide effective control.

The study, carried out in collaboration with a GP practice in Surrey and the University of Bradford, aimed to lower the blood pressure of ‘at-risk’ patients to the recommended target level set by the British Hypertension Society. The pharmacistmanaged treatment, which involved the preparation of individual medicine management plans, was compared to the usual care. The results showed that blood pressure was reduced to the target level for 80% of patients in the pharmacistmanaged group, compared to 45% of patients in the group receiving usual care.

Intensive blood pressure lowering treatment reduces the frequency of cardiovascular events. Nevertheless, hypertension continues to be underdiagnosed, under treated and poorly controlled.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) is the regulatory and professional body for pharmacists in England, Scotland and Wales. The primary objective of the RPSGB is to lead, regulate and develop the pharmacy profession.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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