NAC Research Committee Highlights: Blood Pressure Project

NAC member Phil Williams updates us on progress of this life-changing project by Exeter University

Many people, who may feel well, are unaware of having high blood pressure (hypertension) until they have a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or a stroke.

Hypertension is one of the biggest risk factors for having a stroke or heart attack which is one of the largest causes of death in the UK. This risk increases with age and over 50% of people over the age of 65 have hypertension. Intervention to reduce hypertension has significant benefits.

So, it’s invaluable to accurately measure blood pressure. But the traditional method of doing this is to take readings from the arm. For many thalidomide survivors and, of course, any other upper limb impaired or deficient people – whether from birth or as a result of accident or war – this can be challenging, potentially inaccurate or even impossible to do.

Good news from Exeter University

The good news is there is a solution on the horizon. Exeter University is working on a project to take readings from a leg and correlate this to an equivalent, regular, arm reading thereby creating a useful measurement for a clinician to advise patients on whether action is required to reduce their blood pressure.

The work receives substantial funding from The Stroke Association and a smaller contribution from The Thalidomide Trust. Two NAC members –  Helen Shore and Phil Williams – are involved in this project, acting as PPI (Patient and Public Involvement in research).

There is real progress being made but, alas, these things do take time as there are so many regulatory and other hoops to jump through; not least the essential ‘peer review’ process. The paper proposing the project was published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ) last year; Helen and Phil are co-authors to the amusement of several friends who are medical professionals yet to be published in the BMJ!

Delivering the changes in 2022

There have been presentations at various medical conferences – real and virtual – which have received very positive feedback and much interest. The second and final paper should be published before summer 2022 at the latest and then everything can go public.

Forget the academic side for a minute, what’s happening in practical terms is something that upper limb impaired people need ASAP! A website has been created which contains the calculator. Ultimately, it’s planned to have an App. There are plans in place to train nurses and a broad roll out plan as part of the dissemination strategy when everything goes ‘live’.

Everyone is working very hard to deliver this life-changing and potentially life-saving tool to primary and secondary health professionals in 2022.

This is, of necessity, a simple overview and summary but if you are interested in more information, please do not hesitate to contact Helen Shore or Phil Williams.

Additional Information

Read more from the NAC in the full Winter 2022 Newsletter (PDF)