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It’s in the blood: pharmacy health monitoring

As some of the most accessible healthcare providers in the community, pharmacies are a great place for offering additional patient services. One such service is blood pressure monitoring.

According to GuildCare[1], blood pressure recording/monitoring “helps pharmacists detect patients who may benefit from blood pressure screening, risk assessment and monitoring”.

As is discussed in this health feature, in-pharmacy blood pressure monitoring is also a way for pharmacy staff to open up the conversation with their customers around lifestyle measures that help prevent and manage high blood pressure.

According to Tim Douge, an accredited exercise physiologist from Studio 99 Fitness Centre West End in Brisbane, blood pressure is essentially “the pressure created within our cardiovascular system [that] helps move blood around our body”.

Our blood pressure, he says, “can vary dramatically depending on what we’re doing at any given time”. For example, he adds, our blood pressure will be different whether we’re “sleeping, exercising or working”.

Blood pressure readings have a top number relating to systolic pressure and a bottom number relating to diastolic pressure.

“The health of our heart and blood vessels, as well as other factors, can cause our blood pressure to be high or low,” Mr Douge said.

“High blood pressure is a reading of 140/90mmHg or higher when at rest. These numbers represent the pressure being exerted on the blood vessels during a heartbeat, and in between heartbeats. Higher numbers at rest are generally indicative of higher heart disease risk.”

Accredited Practising Dietitian and spokesperson for Dietitians Australia, Maria Packard adds that “while the ideal blood pressure may differ between individuals based on their medical history, a typical or normal blood pressure reading would be a systolic blood pressure under 120mmHg and a diastolic blood pressure under 80mmHg”.

Keeping blood pressure in check is important because, as Ms Packard points out, if blood pressure is consistently high “the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body against this extra pressure”.

“Many people with high blood pressure have no symptoms, so it’s important to have blood pressure checked regularly,” she said.

According to Mr Douge, “like all other systems in the body, it’s important to keep our blood pressure healthy”, which makes community pharmacy a great place for people to come in and get their blood pressure checked.

“This is definitely an important service,” he said. “Measuring blood pressure is a non-invasive, quick and affordable test for any person to undertake. If an individual is at all concerned about their blood pressure, a pharmacy assistant should feel confident to inform them of lifestyle factors that may be contributing and the avenues for the patient to pursue.”

Blood pressure monitoring services are important not only as an avenue for discussing healthy diet and lifestyle measures customers or patients may pursue for better heart health, but also because, as Ms Packard points out, “many people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms”.

“So, it’s important to have blood pressure checked regularly to identify risk factors and learn how to manage them,” she said.

“Getting your blood pressure regularly checked is important, and for those who have high blood pressure, supporting them to seek to understand the underlying cause of this is key to good, long-term health.”

What pharmacy assistants can do

Mr Douge says “pharmacy assistants should feel comfortable providing generalised advice” around blood pressure when providing blood pressure monitoring services, utilising “a number of resources such as the Australian Guidelines for Healthy Eating, as well as the reference sheets available from exerciseismedicine.com.au.

As well as providing basic advice with the support of these resources, Mr Douge underscores the importance of referral to a medical professional for continued care and guidance.

“The pharmacy assistant should seek to refer to the patient’s GP or other health professional for more specific, individualised advice to ensure the patient is making safe changes,” he said.

According to Ms Packard, community pharmacy is a great place to “help create awareness about the link between diet, lifestyle and heart health”, something she says can be achieved through “casual conversation when checking blood pressure”.

She adds that this is a great time to discuss “ways they can seek nutrition support (such as seeing an Accredited Practising Dietitian), which is one way pharmacy assistants can help improve the health of all Australians”.

She says another way to raise awareness is through information displayed in the dispensing waiting area about nutrition or about how to seek support from a dietitian, which can be of benefit to both people with existing heart disease and others for prevention and awareness.

“This is important for people who require individualised advice, monitoring of risk factors and follow up,” Ms Packard said.

To read the feature in full as it appears in the October issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants e-magazine, visit: rpassistants.com.au/magazines/retail-pharmacy-assistants-october-2021/

Reference: 

  1. Patient Services. guildlink.com.au/guildcare/products1/guildcare-programs/patient-services/
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