Hundreds of thousands of Irish adults are unaware they have high blood pressure, which increases the risk of a heart attack and stroke, the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) has warned.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a major cause of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and premature death. However, it rarely carries any signs or symptoms. In fact, a person can look and feel well even if they have it. This is why it is often referred to as the ‘silent killer'.
The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked by a health professional, such as a GP or pharmacist.
Over 950,000 adults over the age of 45 are estimated to have high blood pressure in this country, however half of these are unaware they have the condition.
In an attempt to highlight this issue, the IHF has launched a free National Blood Pressure Roadshow, which is visiting 45 locations nationwide over the coming weeks.
According to IHF medical director, Dr Angie Brown, while most people have heard of high blood pressure, ‘many still don't understand the importance of having it checked and keeping it at a healthy level'.
"Silent and invisible, high blood pressure can seriously damage blood vessels and the heart if left unchecked. People with high blood pressure are three times more likely to have a stroke or heart attack compared to those with healthy or controlled blood pressure," she explained.
However, she emphasised that a person's blood pressure can be checked easily and quickly and if high blood pressure is detected, it can be managed.
"High blood pressure can be effectively managed through lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, being active, and consuming less salt, fatty foods and alcohol. In some cases doctors will recommend a combination of lifestyle changes and medication to manage blood pressure and protect against strokes," Dr Brown said.
Adults over the age of 30 are recommended to have their blood pressure checked at least once a year. An unhealthy lifestyle, such as smoking, consuming high-salt foods and being overweight or obese, are all known to increase the risk.
The National Blood Pressure Roadshow, which is supported by Medtronic, is providing free blood pressure checks nationwide. For more information on where it will be in the coming weeks, click here
If you would like more advice on blood pressure or any heart-related issue, call the IHF National Heart and Stroke helpline on 1890 432 787.