IT’S not much fun being a man in Blackpool, or at least that’s what the figures tell us.
The resort has the lowest life expectancy for males in the country, 73 years, which is a shocking 10 years less than some more affluent areas down South.
There are many reasons – poverty, below average living standards, poor housing, bad diet.
But there is one basic thing every man could do to give themselves a chance of living longer – have a blood pressure check.
High blood pressure can cause strokes and heart attacks and the fact so many people are unaware they are suffering from the condition is a source of major frustration for the likes of Doctor Amanda Doyle.
A GP at Bloomfield Road surgery, she believes if every man above the age of 40 went for a blood pressure check the results would be instant.
Dr Doyle said: “If everyone was to get their blood pressure checked, it will raise life expectancy. It is the biggest single thing we can do to improve life expectancy in Blackpool in the short term.
“If we were to find all the people walking round with high blood pressure who don’t know about it and treat them, then we would start to wipe out what is one of the biggest killers in Blackpool.”
Given that high blood pressure has no symptoms, it can be hard to persuade a man who thinks he is healthy to book an appointment and get himself checked out.
It is why, the Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG) has launched it’s biggest campaign, aimed at encouraging everyone between the ages of 40 and 60 to get their blood pressure read.
Dr Doyle, who is chief officer for the BCCG, added: “It is relatively easy to treat, but the consequences of walking around with high blood pressure are massive – you are at major risk of a stroke. So my message is just go and get your blood pressure checked.”
The BCCG’s campaign is called “What’s Your Number?” and features six locals who volunteered to take part.
All thought they were healthy individuals, but only one had a blood pressure reading considered normal.
All the others were high, and in the case of Lee Benson, a 40-year-old builder from Bispham, his was so concerning he was sent straight to his GP.
NHS Blackpool spends £2m each year on cardiovascular disease – the umbrella term for heart attack and stroke.
Jean Hayhurst, a cardiovascular specialist nurse, said: “High blood pressure is a silent killer, a ticking bomb.
“Unless they have a pain or feel poorly, men don’t tend to go to their GP.
“We want to make it easier for them, give them no excuse not to get their blood pressure checked.
“So let’s get them to the football club. They can have it done in the Blackpool FC changing room where they are in their comfort zone – that’s what we’re planning in the new year.
“We can do it in bingo halls, wherever, it is all about capturing people in more natural settings.”
History that made my reading soar
IF you suffer from high blood pressure it isn’t necessarily your fault.
Though it is true drinking to excess or smoking can cause high blood pressure, for many of those affected it can simply run in the family.
I should know, it’s happened to me.
I agreed to have my blood pressure checked as part of Blackpool’s high profile campaign and wasn’t expecting the results.
A healthy non-smoker who exercises several times a week, I was more than a little shocked when my reading came out sky high.
But then I casually mentioned my mum had been on blood pressure tablets since the age of 30, and Dr Amanda Doyle said I’d inherited the problem.
“You haven’t done anything wrong and it is very likely your high blood pressure reading is due to family history,” she said.
“Lots of things can make it go up as a one-off reading – being anxious, having rushed to get here, running up the stairs.
“Your GP surgery can arrange a 24 hour blood pressure reading, when you wear a little monitor and it reads every so often over 24 hours, which gives a very accurate idea of what it is like when you are going about your day-to-day life.”
The worrying thing is that I’m not even in the target age group of 40 to 60-year-olds, a few years younger – not older, before you ask.
Dr Doyle added: “It is much more common in people over 40 – but with someone under that age who has a strong family history of high blood pressure, it is a good idea to get it checked.”
As I proved. Now it’s off to the GP to see what can be done about it, starting with a few less takeaway meals.