Why running a ‘know your numbers’ event could be a lifesaver

By Tracey Ward, Head of Business Development & Marketing at Generali UK Employee Benefits

A significant number of the UK workforce has hypertension, or high blood pressure, and doesn’t know it. Making lifestyle changes and/or getting treatment and support might just help save lives. So, why not consider a know your numbers initiative at work, to help people monitor their blood pressure; ideally, make it an ongoing thing, or at least as part of the annual ‘Know Your Numbers! Week’ which, this year, takes place from 2-8 September.

This would also represent the perfect way to signpost to relevant support and services provided by the employer, such as access to virtual GP and second medical opinion services.

To find out more about hypertension and what employers can do to help, we recently spoke with Dr Amit Pasan, GP and Clinical Lead at Teladoc Health, our virtual GP and second medical opinion service provider. In this article, we include some key excerpts from that discussion.*

Tracey: Just how prevalent is hypertension? And why is called the silent killer?

Dr Pasan: A report by The Lancet revealed that raised blood pressure is the biggest single contributor to the global burden of disease and to global mortality, adding that preventative strategies are urgently needed.

In the UK, high blood pressure is the third biggest risk factor for disease after tobacco smoking and poor diet. It’s also the largest single known risk factor for cardiovascular disease and related disability.

Almost a third (32%) of all adults in the UK has hypertension. And around 4 in 10 of those are working age (16 – 64 years).

In other words, it’s a condition that will undoubtedly exist amongst most workforces. However, many people won’t even know they’ve got it. Often described as a ‘silent killer’, the condition rarely has any symptoms, so many people remain undiagnosed.

The good news is that simple lifestyle changes – in combination with medication, where necessary – can lead to big improvements. And the workplace is ideally placed to help, in terms of both raising awareness and signposting to support and services.

Tracey: What are the key risk factors for hypertension?

Dr Pasan: Smoking, lack of exercise, diet and being overweight. These all represent some of the key risk factors.

Firstly, being overweight increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and cancer. So, a combination of diet and exercise to try to reduce an individual’s Body Mass Index (BMI) below 25.0 is key. Anything between 25.0 to 29.9 falls within the overweight range. And a BMI of 30.0+ falls within the obese range.

Secondly, alcohol. The current recommendation is to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread across 3 days or more. That’s around 6 medium (175ml) glasses of wine, or 6 pints of 4% beer.

Then there’s smoking. Smoking narrows the arteries, increasing your risk of lung disease and lung cancer. To help people quit, there are lots of local stop smoking services.

Finally, exercise. European Society of Cardiology guidelines recommend, for adults with obesity, more than 30 minutes moderate or vigorous aerobic exercise, 5-7 days a week. Meanwhile, general NHS physical activity guidelines for all adults, aged 19 to 64, state at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week. Plus strengthening activities at least 2 days a week.

Tracey: Do you think it would be useful for employers to hold a know your numbers event? And do you need a clinical professional to facilitate this?

Dr Pasan: Yes, I think it would be very useful. I don’t think a clinical professional is needed, so long as you provide the key numbers that employees need to be aware of. These could be written on – or nearby – the blood pressure testing station. For example, normal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60 mmHg and 120/80 mm/Hg

High blood pressure is between 140/90 mmHg and 160/100 mmHg, on a consistent basis. In such instances, it would be appropriate to seek medical advice from a GP.

If blood pressure readings are consistently above 180/120 mmHg, urgent same day medical attention would be required to assess this further. There could be a possibility of needing hospital admission to safely lower the blood pressure in a setting where close monitoring can occur.

Tracey: Teladoc Health provides the virtual GP and second medical opinion services that we include at no extra cost as part of our Group Income Protection proposition. How can that service help with hypertension?

Dr Pasan: The virtual GP service is available 24/7 and can provide help and advice on anything health related, including blood pressure issues. We can also provide private prescriptions, specialist referrals and sick notes.

Also, where an individual faces any uncertainty about diagnosis or a management plan from primary or secondary care, we have the second medical opinion service. This is where an expert in the relevant field of expertise – either UK-based or international – would assess all the individual’s medical notes and provide their views on the diagnosis and recommendations.

This can be really helpful for patients, giving them valuable peace of mind. Where hypertension is concerned, they might be worried about the medication and side effects, or secondary issues. Hypertension in pregnancy, for example, often requires specialist input.

For more information on hypertension, go to the British and Irish Hypertension Society and Blood Pressure UK.

*To access a free recording of the full webinar, please email [email protected]

Disclaimer:

All information contained herein represents the views and opinions of the author as at the date of writing and is provided for general information only. Nothing herein constitutes or is intended to constitute financial or other form of advice and no individual should rely upon the information provided in making a specific investment decision without first seeking independent professional advice.