A shock new report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has calculated 4.2 million adults in England have undiagnosed hypertension. The report estimates that 3 in 10 adults with blood pressure of 140 over 90 or above remain undiagnosed.
Leading testing expert, Dr Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), Clinical Lead at London Medical Laboratory, says: ‘These latest estimates of undiagnosed blood pressure cases in England are alarming. Remember, this 4.2 million figure does not even include people in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and a variety of other health problems if not diagnosed and managed in good time. In fact, it is the most common, silent cause for these conditions and should be the focus of detection and treatment.
‘Crucially, studying this latest report, young adults in generally good health make up the group most likely to be suffering from undiagnosed hypertension. Younger males with hypertension are particularly likely to be undiagnosed. 66% of males and 26% of females aged 16 to 24 years, and 55% of males and 44% of females aged 25 to 34 years who had hypertension were undiagnosed, compared with 17% of males and 21% of females aged 75 years and over.
‘That’s not because this group is any more at risk of developing high blood pressure, but because busy, overstretched surgeries may not routinely carry out monitoring for younger age groups unless there is a clinical indication to do so. Hypertension remains silent until later stages where symptoms start to appear. By then, however, changes in the body may not be reversible.
‘It’s not only the young who are in danger of not having this potentially lethal condition picked up in good time. Although younger adults with hypertension were proportionately more likely to be undiagnosed than older adults, the highest total estimated number of cases of undiagnosed hypertension in the population was among males aged 55 to 64 years. The report estimates there are 500,000 males in this age group with undiagnosed hypertension. Similarly, there are an estimated 460,000 females aged 65 to 74 years with undiagnosed hypertension.
‘With that in mind, it’s a good idea that everyone visiting their doctor, for any condition, should be provided routine access to blood pressure testing. This used to involve a healthcare professional but, today, technology can automate this process entirely.
‘Many surgeries pre-Covid had introduced blood pressure monitoring machines in waiting rooms, allowing for rapid and easy access to testing. Not all of these have been restored and their reinstatement will require investment.
‘With advances in technology, most importantly for how clinical data is transmitted and stored, blood pressure testing should become universal for all healthcare appointments. However, for the time being, provision of access is key, empowering individuals to proactively monitor and manage their blood pressure.
‘We’d also like to see community pharmacies offering routine access to blood pressure testing. Further pharmacy funding will be necessary to introduce a widely available community blood pressure service.
‘We also need to increase awareness of the many other opportunities there are to spot hypertension. Many easily accessed private health checks incorporate blood pressure tests. For example, it’s part of London Medical Laboratory’s own “Window” health check, which also analyses cholesterol levels, diabetes, kidney & liver functions and body mass index (BMI).
‘Blood pressure monitors are also available from chemists, and the likes of Amazon and Argos. These make it easy for people to test their blood pressure at home. We’d always recommend people choose one that has been validated for accuracy by the British and Irish Hypertension Society (BIHS).
‘Finally, a simple blood test that is accessible from home via postal kits can provide vital information regarding high cholesterol, HbA1c level (for diabetes), C-reactive protein (CRP) and liver, kidney and thyroid functions. Recent research has revealed a high level of CRP in the blood signifies underlying inflammation and has been linked to an increased risk of elevated blood pressure.
‘London Medical Laboratory’s Heart Health Profile blood test kit is highly accurate, quick and simple to carry out. It can be taken at home through the post, or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer these tests across London and nationwide in over 95 selected pharmacies and health stores.’