Call for people to be checked for silent health conditions linked to stroke

The Stroke Association is urging people to be checked for high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat.

10 March 2022

People are being urged to get checked for “silent” health conditions which have been linked to stroke.

The Stroke Association said that around 55% of stroke patients have high blood pressure and 18% have an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation.

Figures have previously suggested that an estimated five million adults in Britain are unaware they have high blood pressure.

Meanwhile, some 500,000 people are estimated to have undiagnosed atrial fibrillation.

Both conditions have been linked to patients going on to suffer a potentially deadly stroke.

The charity analysed data from two major audits, the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Audit and Stroke Sentinel National Audit Programme, and found that:

– 5% of stroke patients were newly diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, when they had their stroke.

– 24% of stroke patients who had a previous diagnosis of atrial fibrillation were not taking medication to prevent blood clots.

– There was regional variation between diagnosis rates for high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation.

Juliet Bouverie, chief executive at the Stroke Association, said: “Pre-pandemic, diagnosis rates of high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation were already low.

“So we’re incredibly worried that the pandemic’s knock-on effect on healthcare services means thousands of people are unknowingly living with these deadly conditions.

“We are urging you to act now and make sure your heart is healthy by getting checked for high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation. Don’t let the first sign of high blood pressure or atrial fibrillation be a life-changing stroke.

“We know it can be difficult to get an appointment at your GP, but it’s vital that you persist when making this call, or visit your local pharmacy and get checked there. These simple checks could save your life.”

Deb Lowe, national clinical director for stroke at NHS England, said: “We know that many people were reluctant to seek help during the pandemic because they didn’t want to burden the NHS, but our staff are ready to see you so if have concerns about your health, please do get checked out.

“NHS staff are working hard to restore diagnosis, monitoring and management of stroke risk factors to usual levels, and we have introduced a number of new ways to help make it as easy as possible for patients, such as free blood pressure checks for people over 40 in high street pharmacies.”

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