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Bolton photographer tells of health scare after blood pressure check at Preston Vision Express drop-in

Press Release   •   May 16, 2016 16:05 BST

Kevin Shipley has his blood pressure checked by Scott Smith, community development & partnerships manager (North West) at the Stroke Association

A Bolton photographer booked to take pictures of people having blood pressure checks at an event in Preston was urgently referred to his GP after taking time out to have his own reading taken.

In a fortuitous twist of fate, Kevin Shipley decided to sit the test with Stroke Association staff members, as they hosted a free public clinic at Vision Express Preston educating people about high blood pressure as a key risk factor for stroke.

Describing his own high reading and subsequent GP referral as “a complete shock”, Kevin is now under observation. Within 24 hours of the event he had a further three tests to monitor his blood pressure.

More than a third of people who participated in the ‘Know Your Blood Pressure’ event (Tuesday 10 May) at the Vision Express store in St George’s shopping centre were advised to see a GP for further consultation

Statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that approximately 3,871 [1] people within the Greater Preston CCG (clinical commissioning group) are survivors of stroke, which represents approximately 1.84% [2] of the local populace.

Kevin, who returned a high reading, says: “If I hadn’t been in Preston to take pictures at the event, my high blood pressure would never have been picked up, so it’s a real wake up call for me.

“The biggest surprise was that there aren’t any obvious symptoms. I thought I would have known if I had high blood pressure.”

High blood pressure has been dubbed a ‘silent killer’, with a worrying lack of awareness about its importance, particularly among men. Research from the Stroke Association reveals that 60% of men in the UK are unaware of what their blood pressure should be [3]. Men are at a 25% higher risk of having a stroke and at a younger age compared to women [4] but the recent survey revealed that only 40% of men knew what the ideal blood pressure is (120/80mmHg).

The charity’s findings also showed that in the UK:

  • 20% of men over 18 have never checked their blood pressure.
  • 79% of men wrongly believed that there are recognisable symptoms of high blood pressure.
  • 30% of men wrongly believed prostate cancer is a bigger killer than stroke of men aged under 65. In fact stroke kills more men in the UK each year than prostate and testicular cancer combined.

Scott Smith, community development & partnerships manager (North West) at the Stroke Association, carried out the vital health test on 19 people during the Preston event, as the UK welcomes the charity’s awareness-raising month: ‘Make May Purple’.

Vision Express Preston store manager, Chris Milne, commented: “Kevin’s experience underpins exactly why these events are so important. It proves that there is a job to be done to educate people about the dangers of high blood pressure and stroke, and we’re pleased to play a part by hosting the sessions.

“Many people are unaware of the link between stroke and vision. Up to 60% of stroke survivors will experience visual problems, yet one in three stroke survivors are not warned that sight loss could be a problem or that treatment and support is available via our trained optometrists.”

Kevin is thankful that his condition was picked up, and will continue to be monitored by his GP, to determine if treatment is necessary.

Jim Swindells, director of fundraising at the Stroke Association, added: “Too few people are aware just how serious stroke is, or that up to 80% of strokes could be prevented. It’s vital that everyone knows what their blood pressure level should be and has regular checks.”

High blood pressure affects 9.2 million people in the UK and a further estimated 6.8 million could be living without a diagnosis. Uncontrolled blood pressure can, over time, lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and eye problems. In 2014 alone, over 16,000 men in the UK died of stroke.

Did you know?

  • There are around 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK
  • Over a quarter (26%) of all strokes in the UK occur in the under 65s
  • By the age of 75 1 in 6 men will have a stroke.
  • Stroke is the fourth single largest cause of death in the UK and second in the world

‘Know Your Blood Pressure’ events are taking place at selected Vision Express stores nationwide throughout 2016. 

Vision Express offers an eye test to best practice guidelines of the College of Optometrists (COO), with each Vision Express optometrist being a qualified eye health professional. To book an eye test visit the Vision Express Preston store at 90 Fishergate Walk, St George’s shopping centre, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 2NR, call 01772 911 481 or visit



[3] Atomik Research conducted an online survey of 2,010 UK males aged 18-55+ from 6 – 9 May 2015

[4] In England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Royal College of Physicians Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP). Clinical audit April - June 2014 report prepared by Royal College of Physicians, Clinical Effectiveness and Evaluation Unit on behalf of the Intercollegiate Stroke Working Party.  

About Vision Express

Vision Express is the third largest optical retailer in the UK and part of GrandVision,the global leader in optical retail operating across 43 countries, spanning over 5,800 stores and online.

With more than 390 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.

Vision Express is considered one of the leading and most trusted opticians in the UK and Ireland, with its European offering supported through sister eye care brands Grand Optical, Solaris and Generale D'Optique.

With around 4,000 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:

  • Alzheimer’s Research UK
  • Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT)
  • International Glaucoma Association
  • Macular Society
  • Stroke Association
  • Temple Street University Hospital.

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