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Millions At Risk From 'Silent Killer', UK's Third Biggest Killer

September 06, 2017

The Stroke Association urges the public to get their blood pressure tested and avoid being a statistic of the UK's third biggest killer. The call comes as the charity reveals figures that show nearly a quarter of people in the UK are unknowingly suffering from undiagnosed high blood pressure - the single biggest risk factor for stroke.

The figures also reveal that this risk varies greatly across the country. The South West of England came top with nearly 30 per cent of those tested unaware that they had high blood pressure, closely followed by East Anglia and the Home Counties. At the bottom of the table and well below national average, 17.8 per cent of those tested in the North East were living with the 'silent killer'.

Working in partnership with Rotary International Great Britain and Ireland (RIBI) The Stroke Association is launching a blood pressure campaign with a series of testing days across the country. Testing days will offer free blood pressure checks, and advice on stroke and its prevention to people of all ages. Stroke does not discriminate and can happen to anyone at any time.

Joe Korner, Director of communications at The Stroke Association said:

"There is no doubt that blood pressure testing really can save lives. Every five minutes someone in the UK has a stroke - that's 150,000 every year. But over 40 per cent of those strokes could be prevented by the control of high blood pressure. We also know that many thousands of people are completely unaware of their own blood pressure levels. Many of those people have no idea that they have high blood pressure and that their risk of having a stroke is massively increased. High blood pressure can be reduced through medication and controlled by changes in diet and lifestyle. Take action, get tested and change your lifestyle - you may prevent a stroke."

Andrew Lansley, Shadow Health Secretary and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Stroke, commented:

"People lead busy lives but getting your blood pressure checked, either by your GP or at a Stroke Association/RIBI testing day near you is quick, simple and could change your life for the better. An estimated 150,000 people have a stroke each year with a quarter happening to those under 65 so monitoring blood pressure is absolutely vital."

High blood pressure is referred to as a 'silent killer' for good reason. 16 million people in the UK have high blood pressure┬╣ with many more unaware they have the condition. Most people can be treated effectively and benefit greatly by making small but significant lifestyle changes. Cutting down on alcohol, stopping smoking, reducing stress levels and leading a healthier lifestyle can all help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of stroke.

1. Contact Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland on 01789 765 411for information on your nearest Rotary Club testing day or visit www.rotary-ribi

2. The silent killer league table

Regional percentage of people with undiagnosed high blood pressure (UK average is 23.8 per cent)

South West - 29.5%
East Anglia - 26.2%
Home Counties - 26.1%
Southern - 25%
North West - 24.6%
Northern - 23.4%
London - 23.3%
Wales - 20%
West Midlands - 19.6%
East Midlands - 18.8%
North East - 17.8%

Research was compiled by The Stroke Association in April 2005 based on blood pressure levels of 19,318 people tested across the UK.

3. The Stroke Association has created a leaflet on blood pressure and the steps you can take to control it called Know your blood pressure.

4. Be blood pressure aware

It is vital that everyone has their blood pressure levels tested regularly as a healthy blood pressure level is important in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. Blood pressure is a measure of the force blood exerts on the arteries as it is pumped around the body. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). There are two measures of blood pressure and the optimal level is below 120/80 mmHg:

-- Systolic blood pressure - this is the pressure the blood exerts on the arteries when the heart beats
-- Diastolic blood pressure - this is the pressure the blood exerts on the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats

Causes of high blood pressure

High blood pressure is often caused by lifestyle and diet factors including smoking, stress, lack of exercise and poor diet. The risk of high blood pressure increases as you get older and is also above average in minority ethnic groups, especially in African Caribbean and South-Asian communities.

Controlling blood pressure

Blood pressure can be controlled via diet and lifestyle, for example:

- Limit your salt intake - eat less than 6g of salt each day
- Stop smoking
- Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day
- Reduce your fat intake, especially saturated fat
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Get active - aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity
- Watch your weight

5. Reference

1) 16 million people in the UK have high blood pressure

Reference: Primatesta P, Brooks M, Poulter N, 'Improved hypertension management and control'. Results from Heath Survey for England 1998 published in 'Hypertension' 2001. Available from the Blood Pressure Association.

6. Each year an estimated 150,000 people have a stroke. Of all people who suffer from a stroke, about a third are likely to die within the first 10 days, about a third are likely to make a recovery within one month and about a third are likely to be left disabled and needing rehabilitation. Stroke has a greater disability impact than any other medical condition. A quarter of a million people are living with long-term disability as a result of stroke in the UK.

7. The Stroke Association is the only national charity solely concerned with combating stroke in people of all ages. The charity funds research into prevention, treatment, better methods of rehabilitation and helps stroke patients and their families directly through its community services which include a communication support service, family and carer support service, information services, welfare grants, publications and leaflets. The Stroke Association also campaigns, educates and informs to increase knowledge of stroke at all levels of society acting as a voice for everyone affected by stroke.

8. A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted. Most strokes occur when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain. Some strokes are caused by bleeding in or around the brain from a burst blood vessel. When the blood supply is disrupted, parts of the brain become damaged or destroyed. Some strokes are fatal whist others can cause permanent or temporary paralysis to one side of the body and loss of the ability to speak, read or write. Recovery may be slow and can vary from person to person.

9. Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders that provides humanitarian service, encourages high ethical standards in all vocations, and helps build goodwill and peace in the world. Approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 32,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Members carry out this work in their community and/or overseas by giving their time and their expertise. A Rotary Club is open to men and women who are business, professional or community leaders who want to use their experience for the benefit of others.