The NHS is launching the major drive as the results of a 22-year study of 20,000 Brits reveals the extent men are at greater heart danger.
Under the plans over-40s will now be able to access the potentially lifesaving checks in venues like barbershops, mosques and working men’s clubs in England.
The findings, presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Amsterdam, identified the impact of sex on heart risk after controlling for other factors such as diet and exercise.
Every year there are 100,000 hospital admissions in Britain due to heart attacks – one every five minutes. The NHS projects the new pop-up blood pressure check units in businesses and community venues will prevent 113 heart attacks and strokes every month.
Lead researcher Dr Tiberiu Pana, of Aberdeen University and a junior doctor in the NHS, said: “The advice is that men should start looking early at risk factors, like obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, and reach out to their GP to get those things addressed.
“The earlier the better.” High blood pressure significantly increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke, but many men and women remain unaware they are affected because there are typically no obvious symptoms.
The new study tracked men and women aged over 40 who underwent health checks between 1993 and 2018. Researchers also adjusted for a range of factors including ethnicity, deprivation, BMI, physical activity, alcohol intake and smoking status.
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On average, people in the study were followed up for 22 years. It was already known men were more likely to experience heart attacks but the results revealed the extent of increased risk is much higher than previously thought.
Compared with women, the relative risk for men of experiencing heart attacks and peripheral artery disease was two-fold higher.
They also had a 50 percent higher risk of heart failure and atrial fibrillation. The study suggested men have a 42 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
Men were more likely to experience a heart attack younger than women. The expansion of the free blood pressure checks will see a further 2.5 million carried out in the community in England.
Venues include supermarkets and community centres. Those already conducted show more than a third of people checked are then referred to pharmacists with high blood pressure.
NHS England estimates the expansion could help prevent 1,350 heart attacks and strokes each year. Dr David Crichton, chief medical officer at NHS South Yorkshire, said the health service would now “go out into our communities and connect with people who wouldn’t usually have their blood pressure checked”.
He said: “The teams make it easier for people to get tested, they give them confidence to ask any questions they have.
“When someone is referred to a local pharmacy, in their own neighbourhood, we know they’re more likely to attend and get the vital support and treatment they need.”
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Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, the associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This large study again highlights that men more commonly have heart attacks at a younger age than women.
“Coronary heart disease is the most common killer of men. There’s never been a better time to get physically active and replace that pub session with an extra session in the gym.”
NHS and council services in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, are operating a mobile blood pressure service called ‘How’s Thi Ticker’ which travels around local neighbourhoods including barber shops, supermarkets, and community centres.
GPs in Warrington are working with ETC Health at BT to offer COPD and hypertensive patients oxygen saturation and blood pressure tracking at home using an app, with over 1,000 users already and six heart attacks and nine strokes set to be avoided.
In south London NHS teams have worked with Black Thrive and MyCommunity Lambeth to offer blood pressure checks at a Brixton dominoes club, helping to spot signs of hypertension early.
The projects are funded by existing NHS budgets.
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