Luton locals were encouraged to have their blood pressure taken at a Vision Express and Stroke Association event this week, as part of an award-winning initiative to reduce the risk of stroke in the town.
The Know Your Blood Pressure day held at Vision Express’ store in The Mall, Luton, aimed to highlight hypertension or high blood pressure, as a contributing factor in around half of all strokes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
One local resident, Mark Madigan, who had visited Vision Express to get his glasses tightened, decided to take advantage of the free check-up. He explains: “I last had my blood pressure taken around four years ago, I had no idea it had to be done every year.”
Leaving reassured that his blood pressure was fine, Mark, who recognised the importance of taking regular readings in a bid to decrease the chances of stroke, adds: “It gives peace of mind, although no one in my family has suffered a stroke, checks are still something you can do to manage your overall health.”
Niraj Shah, a dispensing optician at the Vision Express store found his blood pressure was higher than anticipated, which will encourage him to change some of his health and lifestyle habits. He says: “I have a family history of stroke and in 2004 my father suffered one when he was in his mid-forties. He was out of work for some time but has fully recovered now and is better than ever. After the stroke, he started taking up more regular exercise, doing a lot of walking – he even managed to reach basecamp on Mount Everest!”
Explaining that one of the biggest causes of his father’s stroke was his diet and lifestyle, Niraj adds: “Asian food is very high in oil and salt and my father used to smoke, so a complete change in diet and lifestyle was necessary. He quit smoking and drinking - it was a real eye opener for him and our family.”
National statistics highlight that within the NHS Luton CCG (clinical commissioning group), 2,693 people are stroke survivors, a figure that represents 1.2% of the local population.
One of the Stroke Association volunteers taking readings on the day was Katherine Warner. The business development director has learned, since working for the charity, that her grandfather had in fact died from a stroke before she was born. Katherine explains: “It just shows you that lots of people don’t realise how many people do have strokes. I literally didn’t know about it in my own family and I’ve been working for the Stroke Association for two years.”
Siobhan Casson, who also works in the business development team at the Stroke Association, decided to work with the charity after seeing first-hand the effect stroke can have on families. “One of my friend’s aunts had a stroke – that was my first experience of it,” she said. “I had some understanding before but it’s only since working here that I’ve realised how important it is that we spread the message of prevention.”
Both Katherine and Siobhan hope that through the Know Your Blood Pressure events, which are happening across the UK in 2017, more people can become educated on the signs, symptoms and treatments for stroke. She concludes: “Every single day we are hearing stories of the stroke survivors and the struggles that they have.
“For us to be able to potentially prevent people from having a stroke in the first place is incredible, and it’s really exciting just working in partnership with other like-minded organisations, like Vision Express, that share the same beliefs and aims as us, to conquer stroke.”
Commenting on the event, Vijay Hirani, Vision Express Luton store director, adds: “It’s quick and easy and completely painless. I had my blood pressure taken five years ago, and today I found out everything is normal - I was given a healthy result. My mum does have high blood pressure and takes medication to help with this, so it is something I have always had in the back of my mind. Any health checks are important, and my advice to anyone is go for the neccesary checks, including a regular eye test, just for peace of mind.”
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. To book an eye test at the Luton store call 01582 417417, visit 94 The Mall, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU12TQ or make an online enquiry at: www.visionexpress.com/book-eye-test/
 Stroke Association ‘State of the Nation’ report, January 2016
About Vision Express
Vision Express is one of the largest optical retailers in the UK and part of GrandVision,the global leader in optical retail operating in more than 40 countries, spanning over 6,500 stores and online.
With almost 400 stores nationwide, Vision Express first opened its doors in Newcastle in 1988. Built on a passion for the profession, it has gone from strength to strength, driven by a commitment to unparalleled customer service and providing the best individual optical care, the right product and great value. Customers can select from a vast range of genuine designer brands and the latest technology lenses, through to complete glasses from £39.
With around 4,500 employees, Vision Express makes a significant difference to the communities it operates within, and the organisations it chooses to support. As part of its commitment to Vision. Taken Seriously, and as a responsible and caring retailer, Vision Express is proud to partner with a range of healthcare charities, which have touched the lives of customers and teams. These companies provide vital support to people affected by vision-related conditions. They are part of the Vision Express Charity Project and include:
- Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT)
- International Glaucoma Association
- Macular Society
- Stroke Association
- Temple Street University Hospital