Belfast Telegraph

My high blood pressure health scare has been huge wake-up call, reveals Sinn Fein MLA

By David Young

An MLA has opened up about a health scare that he says has changed his life.

Declan McAleer has revealed he's been diagnosed with very high blood pressure.

At one point it reached a worrying 192 over 130. Most adults have blood pressure readings in the range of 120 over 80 to 140 over 90.

The 45-year-old, a Sinn Fein MLA for West Tyrone, had been feeling unwell and was rushed to hospital, where he was told he was at risk of suffering a stroke.

"I'd been taking some dizzy spells, and one particular night seven weeks ago I virtually blacked out. My wife rushed me to hospital," the father-of-three explained.

"I didn't know what was wrong with me.

"Once I reached the hospital in Omagh and they took my blood pressure, they realised I was actually at risk of having a stroke.

"I've been struggling for the past seven weeks to get to grips with very high blood pressure.

"I feel grand for a day or two, then it spikes and floors me again.

"It has been very debilitating."

Mr McAleer, an MLA since 2012, said that over the last few weeks his medication has been changed four times as medics battle to control the condition.

"I'm going in the right direction but I'm just not quite there yet," he said.

Mr McAleer said high blood pressure runs in his family, but his sedentary lifestyle and the fact he is overweight made things worse.

His doctors have told him to cut salt from his diet, reduce the amount of sugar he eats, and take more exercise, at least a half hour every day.

"I've been doing that, and, coupled with the medication, my blood pressure is now down to 160 over 90," he added. "It's still high, but going in the right direction. But there are still periods when I can't get up, when I can't really get out and about.

"But with the lifestyle changes and the medication, I'm back in action again, but I'm still weak and tire quickly."

Mr McAleer said that for the past 45 years he had taken his health for granted.

"I had warnings - weakness, flutters, dizziness, fatigues - they were all red flags, but I ignored them," he admitted.

"I shouldn't have, and I am, in many ways, lucky to get this warning. It could so easily have been a stroke or a heart attack."

The MLA praised the medical staff at Omagh who diagnosed his condition and provided his treatment plan, as well as his political colleagues who pulled together to ensure there was no gap in service to constituents.

"The whole thing has forced me to start focusing on my health," Mr McAleer added. "I'm hoping that I've got to grips with it now and I'm on the road to recovery."

The politician urged others to look after their health.

"The message I would say to anybody is: don't take your health for granted. I'm calling on people to get regular check-ups, because you could have high blood pressure like me and not even be aware of it."

Belfast Telegraph

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