Stats reveal issue of high blood pressure

A GP checking a patient's blood pressure.
A GP checking a patient's blood pressure.

The rate of people with high blood pressure in the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is among the highest in the country, as experts warn it may be the tip of the iceberg, writes Joseph Hook, data reporter.

There were 56,280 patients with high blood pressure on doctors’ books in the NHS Northumberland CCG in 2016-17, the most recent year for which data is available, according to figures from Public Health England.

It means that 17.4% of all those on the register have high blood pressure – the 12th-highest level in England. It is an increase of 5.4% on the rate in 2009-10, when figures were first recorded.

A spokesperson for the Northumberland CCG said: “In Northumberland, we proactively identify people with hypertension and consequently we have a high recorded prevalence for this condition.

“High blood pressure is linked to lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking and drinking and there is a raft of work taking place with the NHS and our partners in Northumberland County Council, Fresh, the region’s tobacco control programme and the region’s alcohol office Balance, to support people to make healthier lifestyle choices.

“One of the priority areas is focusing on the prevention agenda and health promotion to reduce smoking prevalence in adults, reduce the rates of hospital admissions for alcohol-related conditions and to increase the percentage of physically active adults. An example of this is that smoking prevalence in Northumberland is the lowest in the North East.

“The 10-year Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy which has been prepared by Northumberland County Council aims to build on this. We are going to be engaging with the public to gather their views on the aims of the strategy so they can help shape the work going forwards.” All adults over 40 are recommended to have their blood pressure checked at least every five years.

However, the figures show that GPs in the Northumberland CCG had no record of a blood pressure reading in the last five years for 9.7% of their patients over 45.

Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Having high blood pressure can be deadly as, if left untreated, it significantly increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.

“And it’s much more common than you might think, with nearly one in three adults in the UK living with the condition. We estimate there are up to 7 million people in the UK with untreated or undiagnosed high blood pressure.

“The biggest problem with high blood pressure is that it’s silent there are rarely any signs or symptoms. That’s why its so important that people know their numbers, and seek advice and treatment if needed.”

Poor diet, lack of exercise and drinking too much alcohol or coffee can all increase risk of high blood pressure.

Across England, more than 8million people in 2016-17 were estimated to have recorded a high blood pressure reading, accounting for 13.8% of those registered with GPs surgeries.

Urban areas tended to have fewer people with high blood pressure, with Tower Hamlets having the lowest rates in England. Just 7.6% of people in the London borough had the condition, under half the rate in West Norfolk.