Gemma Bamford (L), Information, Advice and Support Coordinator at the Stroke Association and Laura McGregor (R), Communication Support Coordinator at the Stroke Association, with Vision Express St Albans store manager Tony Patel

Vision Express helps to Make May Purple

Store manager at Vision Express St Albans, Tony Patel is encouraging local people to have regular blood pressure checks after his uncle had a stroke and later died of a heart attack.

The heart-felt advice was shared with customers during a drop-in Know Your Blood Pressure event at the St Peter’s Street store, held in partnership with the Stroke Association during the charity’s national stroke awareness month: Make May Purple for Stroke.

Vision Express forged its partnership with the Stroke Association to educate customers about the condition and its impact on sight. Up to 60% of people that have had a stroke will experience visual problems, yet one in three are not warned that sight loss could be a problem - or that treatment and support is available. Over half of strokes can be caused by high blood pressure so getting your blood pressure checked is crucial. It is also possible to identify whether someone has high blood pressure during an eye test.

During the event at the St Albans store, Vision Express customers were offered free blood pressure checks by Stroke Association staff members, with those presenting high readings advised to seek further medical attention.

Despite his family history, coupled with statistics showing almost 9,500 people in the area have been affected by stroke, it was the first time Tony had his blood pressure reading taken. He said: “My uncle had a stroke a couple of years ago and last year he died from a heart attack, but I know that was all related to the initial stroke.

“I think it’s vital that people have their blood pressure checked, especially those at high risk, because anything can happen.”

Tony’s results on the day were slightly high and he received guidance on how to improve his lifestyle to help lower the risk of his blood pressure increasing in future. He added: “The advice is definitely something I will take back to my family, particularly my dad. He’s never had a stroke before but he is diabetic and there are times when he doesn’t look after his diet.”

Local resident, Vincent Volpe was visiting the store to get his glasses fixed when he decided to get tested and was one of those who received guidance to visit his GP for more information. He said: “My wife had a mini-stroke a couple of years ago so I’m glad I’ve had mine checked today as my reading was high. I’m going to see my doctor now and get it tested again.”

Sylvia Webb, who was accompanying her friend having an eye test, was also advised to see her GP after having her blood pressure checked. She said: “I’m going to go to the doctors next week to get it tested again. I am really glad I took the time out to do this today.”

National statistics show there are almost 9,500 people have had a stroke within the NHS Herts Valley CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group), a figure that represents 1.52% of the local population.

9.5 million people, or one in seven, in the UK are diagnosed with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. For every 10 people diagnosed, seven remain undiagnosed and untreated – accounting for more than 5.5 million people in England alone. Uncontrolled blood pressure can, over time, lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and eye problems. Although there are a greater number of stroke related deaths in women (23,000 in the UK in 2015 alone), men are at higher risk of having a stroke at a younger age.

George Burroughs, Head of Community and Events Fundraising for the Stroke Association, said: “A simple and painless test could prevent a devastating stroke. Too few people are aware just how serious stroke is – it is the UK’s fourth biggest killer, and the second largest cause of death in the world.

“It’s vital that everyone knows what their blood pressure level should be and has regular checks.”

Did you know? • There are over 1.2 million people affected by stroke in the UK • The average age of stroke has decreased in recent years. People are now most likely to have a stroke over the age of 55 • Stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer and twice as many men than prostate and testicular cancer combined, each year • Up to 60% of people will experience visual problems following a stroke, yet one in three are unaware that sight loss could be a problem or that treatment and support is available • For every stroke avoided the NHS saves £23,000, not including the vast social care costs and the effect on the economy from people needing to stop work. ‘Know Your Blood Pressure’ events are taking place at selected Vision Express stores nationwide throughout 2017.,

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