Pictured is Marty Morrissey with Nurse Mary Rose Jordan (right) Irish Heart Mobile Health Unit and Marese Damery Health Check Manager from Irish Heart. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
New figures from Irish Heart’s Mobile Health Unit service show that a total of 385 people from Tipperary have availed of its free blood pressure checks in its first full year of operation. This figure is made up of 151 men and 234 women who attended the unit – which is supported by Bank of Ireland and Medtronic – when it visited the county.
Officially marking its first anniversary, Irish Heart is taking the opportunity to appeal to men, in particular, to get checked for high blood pressure. The plea follows findings from a national sample survey of attendees which showed a greater prevalence of high blood pressure in men – the silent risk factor for stroke and heart attack.
In the survey of 268 attendees nationally, 41% of participants were found to have high blood pressure, with half of the men (51%) surveyed having high blood pressure, compared with just one third (33%) of women surveyed. The sample survey also found that of those participants who had their blood pressure checked and who were then advised by Irish Heart Nurses to follow up with their GP, men were more reluctant to visit their GP compared with women. Of those in this grouping who responded to a follow-up call at six weeks, only 42% of men reported as having gone to their GP compared with 54% of women.
Marese Damery, Health Check Manager, Irish Heart said:
"What this evaluation has highlighted is that men are more likely than women to have high blood pressure and even when advised to visit a GP, men are less likely to act on that advice. This is a continuing challenge for those of us who work in the health arena and especially when dealing with a silent risk factor like blood pressure, where a person can feel fine and not know that they have a problem."
According to the national heart and stroke charity, the benefits of the public engaging in a one-to-one interaction with Irish Heart nurses delivering the mobile health service acts as a vital prompt to attendees to consider the full aspects of health and lifestyle in reducing their risk of heart disease and stroke.
"We know that there are groups of the population, such as men or those from disadvantaged backgrounds, who have less opportunity or who are less inclined to access health services. The unfortunate flipside of this is that such groups have a higher risk of stroke and heart attack. One of the key benefits of our Mobile Health Unit is the opportunity to reach out to these people on their own doorsteps – in shopping centres, in community centres, in Men's Sheds, etc., and we are delighted that so many people from Tipperary have availed of our service. We hope that even more local people will turn out to avail of Irish Heart's free blood pressure checks when we next visit the county."
Ms Damery continued:
"On a positive note, our survey showed that 43% of men reported making lifestyle changes as a result of the health check and were contemplating quitting smoking, reducing their alcohol intake or reviewing their diet."
People already diagnosed with high blood pressure are also being encouraged to visit the free Mobile Health Unit service following findings from the survey that showed 63% of people who attended the unit, and who knew they had a history of high blood pressure, still tested high. According to Irish Heart, it is important to continue having regular checks with a doctor to ensure blood pressure is well managed. A normal blood pressure reading is 120 over 80.
High blood pressure is estimated to affect almost one million people in Ireland and is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and, significantly, it is the biggest risk factor for stroke. Eighty per cent of premature cardiovascular disease is caused by adverse lifestyle behaviours such as smoking, an unhealthy diet, a lack of physical activity, and harmful alcohol use. These risk factors also contribute to high blood pressure but by making positive changes to these lifestyle factors, people can reduce their risk of high blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health.
Irish Heart's mobile health unit incorporates two professional consultation rooms where attendees can avail of free blood pressure checks which are entirely non-invasive. Nurses will provide individual/tailored lifestyle advice and information on next steps including managing blood pressure and following up with a GP, if necessary. For details of Irish Heart's mobile health unit current locations, visit www.irishheart.ie
To speak in confidence with trained specialist nurses for expert one-to-one advice and support, call the National Heart & Stroke Helpline on Freefone 1800 25 25 50 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, Thursday until 7pm) or email firstname.lastname@example.org