Throughout my career, I have often observed that members of the public are inquisitive about their blood pressure, but rarely know what the numbers mean. So does this matter and what does it mean to have a high blood pressure reading?
What do the numbers mean?
A person’s blood pressure is considered high when it is repeatedly measured at 140/90mmHg or higher.
In 2015, more than one in four adults in England had a blood pressure of this reading or higher, amounting to 13.5 million people. This was also responsible for 75,000 deaths each year.
There is no question that a large number of these deaths could be prevented through improved prevention, detection and management, and with an additional 5.5 million people in England who remain undiagnosed, we must take action to tackle high blood pressure.
In 2015, we saw a promising trend in that the average systolic blood pressure in the general population dropped by 3.9mmHg since 2003. This suggested that the risk of CVD events had also dropped over this time period in the general population.
However, from 2011 to 2015, this fall is much reduced, suggesting that gains in average blood pressure are beginning to slow down in recent years and more needs to be done to continue to see a decrease in risk for the whole population.
As part of the wider CVD prevention strategy, tackling high blood pressure is a priority for Public Health England. We are therefore working extremely closely with our valued stakeholders as part of the Blood Pressure System Leadership Board to tackle the issue head on.
A key aim of the Board is to support local stakeholders to continue the fantastic work in their local areas, particularly working to raise the public’s awareness of the associated risks of having a high blood pressure and to support them to understand their numbers.
The Action Plan
In 2014 the Blood Pressure System Leadership Board published an action plan called Evidence into action, which outlined the Board’s collective commitment to tackling high blood pressure in England. This plan was reviewed in 2017 and enabled members to take a stocktake of their key achievements over the past three years.
The Board are pleased to have published an updated action plan, which outlines our collaborative ambition and the achievements that have been made since the establishment of the Board.
The updated plan seeks to go further than the original publication by providing more innovative commitments and collaboration opportunities for stakeholders. This publication also seeks to engage new partners by providing clear detail of how everyone can contribute to tackling high blood pressure.
As Chair of the Board, I am delighted that colleagues from across the health and social care system have been able to contribute so significantly to the updated document and report on the range of key achievements that have contributed to the prevention, detection and management of high blood pressure.
To name a few of PHE’s key highlights;
- We published the updated cardiovascular disease action plan on World Heart Day (29 September 2017), which outlines our commitment to CVD prevention over the next year.
- We worked with colleagues in NHS England to develop Size of the prize resources for every STP in England. These one-page graphics show how many people in their STP area have undiagnosed high blood pressure or atrial fibrillation (AF), and how many have under-treated high blood pressure or AF.
- We worked with colleagues to launch a campaign to increase use of the Heart age tool in September 2017. This linked well with the Know Your Numbers Week.
- We showed our continued commitment in supporting high quality delivery of the NHS Health Check programme by developing national guidance to support local commissioners and providers.
- We published a range of guidance to support local commissioners in tackling the key risk factors associated with high blood pressure including; The public health burden of alcohol and Everybody Active Every Day two years on.
We are also delighted to work so closely with a number of organisations that are committed to this important agenda, including the British Heart Foundation, Stroke Association, Pharmacy Voice, NHS RightCare and local authorities.
What is new for 2018?
The updated action plan outlines our clear collaborative ambition to tackle this issue head on. Partners have committed to going further and engaging with a wider network of stakeholder to ensure that we are successful in our ambition. We will continue to work closely together on our commitments, supporting each other and strengthen our impact throughout the system. However we cannot achieve this alone, we need the support of the whole system in order to tackle this priority public health issue.
What can you do to support this agenda?
A recent Health Matters edition outlined how Local Authorities, General Practices, Pharmacists and Community settings all have a role in tackling high blood pressure.
We welcome all partners to support this agenda, by collaborating with the organisations that have contributed to this action plan, but also by informing us of local activity and events that we can support you with.
I wish the system all the very best in taking forward this invaluable work.