High blood pressure 'costs £2bn'
Diseases caused by high blood pressure cost the NHS more than £2 billion every year, new figures have revealed.
Public Health England (PHE) is today launching an unprecedented programme to tackle the condition, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes and chronic kidney disease.
In the first calculation of its kind, PHE said the annual cost to the NHS in England from diseases caused by high blood pressure is an estimated £2.1 billion.
The figures also show that reducing the blood pressure of the country as a whole could save £850 million in spending on health and social care over 10 years.
More than five million people are unaware that they have high blood pressure even though it affects more than one in four adults and accounts for 12% of all visits to GPs in England.
PHE said that if 15% more people who are unaware they have the condition are diagnosed, £120 million could be saved over a decade.
And if another 15% of those currently being treated for high blood pressure controlled it better, a further £120 million could be spared.
PHE has established the Blood Pressure System Leadership Board, a collection of public bodies, charities and experts.
The group today publishes an action plan setting out steps to improve the prevention, early detection and management of high blood pressure in England in a bid to replicate successes in the area seen in the US and Canada.
Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and well-being at Public Health England, said: "Too many people are dying prematurely from preventable conditions and high blood pressure plays a big part in this.
"It is vital for partners to come together to tackle this - from local government, to the health service and charities, we all have a role to play.
Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Blood Pressure UK said; "There are over five million people walking around like a ticking time bomb, unaware that they are at risk of having a stroke or a heart attack due to their blood pressure."
Groups across society are being encouraged to take steps to reduce the prevalence of high blood pressure.
Measures set out in the action plan include encouraging families to make changes to their diet and their salt intake in particular, as well as urging those at risk to monitor blood pressure levels regularly and raise any changes with their doctor.
Companies are also being urged to " offer high-quality workplace blood pressure testing to staff".
People from the most deprived areas are 30% more likely to have high blood pressure and the initiative also aims to focus on this group to encourage healthy diets and regular testing.
Professor Huon Gray, national clinical director for Heart Disease for NHS England, said: "Over half of all strokes and many heart attacks could be prevented by ensuring people take steps to get their blood pressure into the normal range, but, unfortunately, high blood pressure often goes unrecognised.
"It's essential that everyone has their blood pressure checked regularly and by taking simple steps like cutting some salt from the diet, or taking more exercise, high blood pressure can be reduced. Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to disability, or even death."
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: "Any new initiative which will improve people's health and well-being as well as saving the NHS money is to be applauded.
"Our goal is to prevent people from developing high blood pressure in the first place - by helping people to eat better, lose weight, exercise more and reduce stress."
Dr Janet Atherton, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, said: "Population prevention measures - such as reducing salt in the diet and tackling obesogenic environments - alongside better early detection and treatment, will mean that rapid improvements in the public's health can be achieved, together with significant savings to a hard-pressed health and social care system."
PHE has also launched a new blood pressure quiz allowing people to test their knowledge of the issue.