Stroke Association representative Juliana Oliver with Vision Express optical assistant Hasina Shah

Harrow targeted with award-winning health initiative in bid to reduce residents’ risk of stroke

Local people in Harrow have been educated on the risk and signs of stroke at a blood pressure clinic, as part of an award-winning partnership between Vision Express and the Stroke Association.

The Know Your Blood Pressure event was held at Vision Express’ store in the St George’s Centre in a bid to reduce the risk of stroke in the borough and highlight high blood pressure as a contributing factor in around half of all strokes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

One local resident, Mrs Kafka, who had visited Vision Express for some advice in the lead up to her cataract surgery, valued the convenience of the opportunity to have the free check-up while she waited. “I am glad I was able to get it checked at the store as the machine in the waiting room at my doctors is broken,” says the 70-year-old. “My blood pressure is fine but I’m glad I had it tested for peace of mind.”

Reassured that her blood pressure was also fine, Cristina David, team leader at the Vision Express Harrow store, highlighted the importance of having regular readings taken, especially when there is a family history of stroke.

“My grandad had a number of strokes,” she explains. “The first one caused paralysis in his right hand and he couldn’t really move the right side of his mouth. His bottom eyelid also started to droop, so he had to put eye cream on several times a day for more than half a year because he couldn’t blink at all.”

Unfortunately, Cristina’s grandad had another stroke, after which he suffered some depression. “He was a keen driver and enjoyed cars but his hand was really bad, which meant he couldn’t drive anymore.

“Just before his last stroke, he became quite agitated while looking for some documents at home. He lost all mobility after this stroke and was paralysed for two years, before he passed away.”

Although her grandad’s strokes were not attributed to any particular lifestyle factors, Cristina says he did experience high blood pressure as a knock on effect following his first stroke.

Commenting on the event - during which 10% of those tested were referred for further medical attention - she adds: “Events such as these that raise awareness of the link between high blood pressure and stroke are invaluable. I wanted to share my story because if people learn more about stroke, perhaps it will encourage them to get their blood pressure checked – it can save lives.

“We’re so pleased our customers and local residents were given the opportunity to have their reading taken at the store and we hope it has encouraged them to consider the importance of regular health checks.”

National statistics highlight that within the (to add) CCG (clinical commissioning group), 3,159 people are stroke survivors, a figure that represents 1.3% of the local population.

Stroke Association representative, Juliana Oliver, was at the Harrow optician to take readings during the event. The corporate partnerships account manager has worked with the charity for three months.

The 29-year-old wanted to work with the charity partly because her family has been touched by stroke in the past. She explains: “My grandfather on my father’s side had several mini strokes, which caused some numbness on his left side, and some of my other relatives have also been affected by stroke.

“You don’t always notice if family members have had strokes when you’re young but it comes out later in life when you begin to be concerned about your own health – it’s something I’m very aware of now.”

Vision Express forged its partnership with the Stroke Association to educate customers about stroke 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, meaning having the simple check is crucial. It is also possible to identify whether someone has high blood pressure during an eye test.

Offering an eye test to best practice guidelines of the College of Optometrists (COO), each Vision Express optometrist is a qualified eye health professional.

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