Ireland has very low diagnosis rates when it comes to high blood pressure, however a pharmacy-based screening service could help to change this, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has said.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a major cause of heart attack and stroke. However, it rarely carries any signs or symptoms. In fact, a person can look and feel well even if they have it.
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.
A recent study published in The Lancet medical journal highlighted that high blood pressure is a big problem in Ireland. The study found that among 12 high-income countries, the second highest prevalence of hypertension was found among Irish men.
Furthermore, just 17% of men with high blood pressure had it under control with medication.
Meanwhile, just 56% of women had undergone testing for high blood pressure compared to 87% in Germany.
"We now know that Ireland has among the highest levels of high blood pressure in the developed world, but very worryingly we also have among the lowest diagnosis rates.
"High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and heart attack. It is an important warning sign from the body that cannot be ignored. This study is a similar warning sign and should encourage the Government to take urgent action," commented IPU general secretary, Darragh O'Loughlin.
The IPU insisted that pharmacy-based blood pressure checks have the potential to save lives.
"A pilot undertaken by the IPU found that a pharmacy-based screening service to detect people at risk of hypertension would have significant benefits.
"Across 68 community pharmacies nationwide, over 1,100 people over the age of 50 were checked during a two-month period. Some 27% were identified as having high blood pressure and 5% had an irregular pulse," Mr O'Loughlin explained.
He noted that 99% of participants said they were happy to have taken part in the pilot and called for a national roll-out, as this could assist in the prevention, detection and management of high blood pressure.
"This pilot is one of a range of common-sense proposals that have been submitted to the Department of Health, but sadly all too often these are ignored. We are urging the department not to ignore the long-term impacts of undiagnosed hypertension and roll out nationwide screening without delay," Mr O'Loughlin added.