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Know your numbers: a blog that could change your life

Do you know your weight and BMI? How many calories should you be consuming? Are you careful not to exceed the recommended daily allowance of alcohol units? Do you reach your step goal each day?

With the advent of smart watches and the drive to get us all living a healthy lifestyle, you can probably answer most of these questions. Here is a more challenging one: do you know your blood pressure? September’s ‘Know your Numbers’ campaign has given us all some food for thought…

The killer in the room

Unless you are already being treated for hypertension (high blood pressure), you may not find that question so easy to answer. But does that matter? You are doing everything else to keep yourself fit and healthy. You eat your five a day and drink plenty of water, so you must be doing fine. Yet you might be surprised to know that, if you are in a room with three other adults, there is a good chance that one of you has hypertension.

This is where it gets a bit scary. In the Global Burden of Disease study, high blood pressure was confirmed as a leading cause of premature death and disability. Transport yourself back to that imaginary room containing three other people and consider that fact. Suddenly it is not such a comfortable place to be. Then consider that approximately 5.5 million people in England have undiagnosed hypertension. To put that into context, 10% of the population of England have hypertension and are living in blissful ignorance of that fact.

Who’s the victim?

What does all this mean? The most common cause of heart attacks and strokes is high blood pressure (shown as the cause in at least 50% of cases). Right now, you may be bargaining with yourself that it’s ok as this only happens to old people; and it is true that the risk increases with age. But what do you call old? We know of a father who died of a heart attack when he was 53, and another gentleman who had a stroke at the age of 50, leaving him permanently disabled. Given the lifespan that most of us can now expect, is 50 old?

What can be done?

Let’s go back to those 10% of people that are unknowingly living with hypertension. If their condition was diagnosed and treated, every 10 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure would lower their risk of cardiovascular disease by 20%. Take a moment to digest that. And we are not talking about open heart surgery. A few simple lifestyle changes can be the difference between life and death. Since his stroke, the gentleman mentioned above has given up smoking. If he had done that a few years ago he might not be finding himself spending the rest of his life reliant on a wheelchair.

Check your numbers

How many of us are walking around with a ticking time bomb that we could easily defuse? If modifying your diet would give you an extra 40 years of life, would you do it? Is it time for us to wake up and be aware of the one health statistic that could literally change our life? Do you now feel motivated to spend less time analysing how many hours you spent in REM sleep last night and instead go out and get your blood pressure checked? If so, our work here is done.

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