Calls for health taskforce to tackle ‘silent killer’ of high blood pressure

Blood pressure has been labelled a silent killer.
Blood pressure has been labelled a silent killer.
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Scotland needs a taskforce to urgently tackle high blood pressure with 1.3 million adults living with the “silent killer”, according to a new report.

A cross-party group are calling for a more co-ordinated approach to tackling the problem on the back of an inquiry that sought the views of those living with the condition and healthcare professionals.

Its report recommends the establishment of a High Blood Pressure Taskforce to focus on the detection, diagnosis, treatment and management of the condition. It identifies a number of areas for the taskforce to prioritise, including the need to increase early detection through community-based programmes, improve the number of people taking their medication as prescribed, address variation in different areas and ensure that health care professionals have the information and training they need.

Less than a third of people with high blood pressure (hypertension) have it treated and controlled to recommended levels.

The condition is often called the “silent killer” because it does not usually carry symptoms so those at risk are unaware of the danger. Hypertension is a leading risk factor for heart and circulatory diseases, which cost the NHS in Scotland an estimated £800 million each year and cause more than a quarter of all deaths.

The inquiry has been conducted by the cross-party group on heart disease and stroke in the Scottish Parliament. The group is made up of MSPs, clinicians, patients and third sector organisations, including British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland.

Labour MSP Colin Smyth and Tory MSP Alexander Stewart are co-convenors of the cross-party group and introduced the report.

Mr Smyth said: “High blood pressure is Scotland’s silent killer, causing a quarter of all deaths. It rarely has symptoms yet is one of the biggest risk factors in heart disease and stroke.

“It is vital we take action to better prevent, detect and treat high blood pressure and support people across Scotland to self-manage their condition.”

Hypertension is when a person’s blood pressure is consistently measuring higher than 140/90mmHg.

It becomes more common as people age and can be reduced through lifestyle changes, including stopping smoking, losing weight, increasing physical activity, and reducing salt and alcohol consumption.

If this does not reduce blood pressure enough, medication is prescribed to control it and reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Professor Rhian Touyz, BHF professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Glasgow, said: “The achievement of healthy levels of blood pressure is crucial to efforts to reduce heart and circulatory disease in Scotland.

“The creation of a high blood pressure taskforce would allow efforts to be concentrated on tackling this condition and improving the cardiovascular health of people in Scotland.”