A Bristol-based charity worker whose family has been touched by stroke twice is urging the public to recognise the dangers of high blood pressure, as part of an initiative being held at Vision Express stores nationwide.
46-year-old Kirsten Rushby, who has worked for the Stroke Association since July 2016 as a member of the South West fundraising team, has two immediate family members whose health has been affected by high blood pressure and stroke in the past two years.
She said: “My step-dad had a stroke, which has caused long-term effects – he’s not the man he was. One side of his body was impacted physically, which he luckily overcame quite quickly, but he still suffers from memory loss.
“His speech wasn’t affected, nor was his vision, but it was a bad stroke. He was in hospital for a week and had to undergo occupational and physical therapy. He continues to get follow on care and support.
“My mum and he were happily carrying on with their lives, as they should have been, and they just didn’t see it coming. When something big like that happens in life I think you realise how vulnerable we all are.”
Kirsten’s dad has also had two Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA), which are often referred to as ‘mini-strokes’ and can be a warning sign for a stroke, if lifestyle changes are not made.
She added: “Both my step-dad and dad’s conditions are down to high blood pressure, caused by their lifestyles. Both have drunk well, eaten well and lived well.
“It’s vital to raise awareness of the link between high blood pressure and stroke, so these drop in events are really beneficial. They also allow us to talk through findings with members of the public, something there is usually no opportunity to do in doctors' surgeries where time and resources are stretched.”
Kirsten recently visited the Broadmead Shopping Centre Vision Express store to offer free blood pressure testing for local residents. During the drop-in, one person was urged to seek further medical attention after returning a high reading.
National statistics highlight that the average age of someone who has had a stroke in the South West of England is 43 years-old and approximately 9,921 people within the Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are survivors of stroke; a figure that represents 2% of the local population.
Those tested at the free drop in session included 26-year-old Sandra Neumann from College Green. A PHD student at Bristol University, Sandra said: “My research focusses upon blood pressure and associated pain so I understand the importance of monitoring your blood pressure.
“I’m pleased to see these events taking place at Vision Express stores, as raising awareness of the dangers of high blood pressure is vital. Luckily my blood pressure is within its normal range but I will definitely have it checked regularly in the future.”
The Bristol ‘Know Your Blood Pressure’ drop in is the latest in a series of events held nationwide as part of an award-winning partnership with the Stroke Association. They aim to raise awareness of high blood pressure as a contributing factor in around half of strokes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Kirsten praised the partnership and added: “It’s wonderful to work with a company such as Vision Express, which tackles health issues in the broader sense. I think it’s really important for more health organisations to work together because it leads to us offering better services for the community.”
There are 9.5 million people in the UK diagnosed as having high blood pressure, also known as hypertension; that is 1 in 7 people in the UK. For every 10 people diagnosed with high blood pressure, seven remain undiagnosed and untreated - this is more than 5.5 million people in England alone. Uncontrolled blood pressure can, over time, lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and eye problems. Although there are a greater number of stroke related deaths in women (23,000 in the UK in 2015) men are at higher risk of having a stroke at a younger age.
Jayne Hughes, community and events fundraising manager for the Stroke Association, said: “A simple and painless test could prevent a devastating stroke. Too few people are aware just how serious stroke is or that up to 80% of strokes could be prevented.”
She added: “It’s vital that everyone knows what their blood pressure level should be and has regular checks.”
Did you know?
- There are over 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK
- The average age of stroke has decreased in recent years. People are now most likely to have a stroke over the age of 55.
- Stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer and twice as many men than prostate and testicular cancer combined a year
- Stroke is the fourth single leading cause of death in the UK and second in the world
- Up to 60 per cent of people will experience visual problems following a stroke, yet one in three are unaware that sight loss could be a problem or that treatment and support is available
‘Know Your Blood Pressure’ events are taking place at selected Vision Express stores nationwide throughout 2017, visit http://www.visionexpress.com/know-your-blood-pressure/.
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.
 Stroke Association ‘State of the Nation’ report, January 2016
 Stroke statistics 2014/15 by Clinical Commissioning Group
 Stroke statistics 2014/15 by Clinical Commissioning Group
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 44 countries and spanning 6,100 stores and online. GrandVision is committed to delivering superior, high quality and affordable eye care to more and more people around the world.
With almost 390 stores nationwide, Vision Express first opened its doors in Newcastle in 1988. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, driven by a commitment to unparalleled customer service and providing the best personalised optical care, style and quality. Customers can select from a wide range of frames and lenses for glasses, contact lenses and sunglasses, allowing everybody to reflect their individual personalities and lifestyles.
With prices starting from £39, the Exclusive Brands in-house collection of eyewear makes the choice at Vision Express both unique and affordable. For frames and sunglasses the styles range from iconic, retro designs to the latest in ultra-modern chic. High-quality brands to suit every style and every budget.
With over 4,000 employees, Vision Express makes a difference to the communities it operates within, and as part of its commitment to Vision. Taken Seriously, and as a responsible and caring retailer, it 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 Charitable Partnerships and include: