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Elderly patients miss out on health advice

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Annabel Fountain spoke at an Age Concern health checks event (Photograph by Fiona McWhirter).

People aged 50 and older with chronic conditions could be missing out on crucial advice on how lifestyle changes could boost their health, it was revealed.

A survey by Age Concern Bermuda found that although almost 80 per cent of respondents had seen a medical professional in the past year, 70 per cent of those asked were not told how healthier living might help.

Claudette Fleming, the charity’s executive director, unveiled the results at a session that focused on high blood pressure — or hypertension — yesterday and said that the findings were “a big eye opener”.

Age Concern carried out health checks at several locations across the island in 2017 and 2018, when some participants responded to a questionnaire about their wellbeing and use of medical services.

Dr Fleming said 51 per cent of people reported high blood pressure, 28 per cent said they had high cholesterol and 21 per cent reported diabetes.

But she added that on the day that people were checked, 62 per cent had hypertension stage 2, which is the level just below hypertensive crisis.

Dr Fleming said that 79 per cent of respondents reported that they had seen a doctor or medical professional in the past year.

She added: “We knew that, for the most part, these are individuals who are tuned in.

“They are going to health providers, and interestingly it was the reverse in terms of, have you been to the emergency room in the last six months?

“79 per cent said, ‘no I haven’t’.”

Dr Fleming added: “From what we could see, our assumption is this is a pretty responsible group of individuals who know that they have a chronic disease of some kind — hypertension in particular — and they are dealing with the medical profession accordingly.”

She said 73 per cent of the respondents said they were taking prescription drugs for high blood pressure.

Dr Fleming told the session: “We can see this picture now — you are going to the doctor, you have been diagnosed with this condition for quite some time and you are managing it and you’re taking medications.

“70 per cent of participants across all of the health checks said during the last 12 months, ‘although I have this condition I have not been given any advice on lifestyle change’.

“We kind of knew this intuitively but you proved it for us.

“That was a big eye opener for us.”

Dr Fleming explained that Age Concern wanted to look at ways to tackle health problems and that she had managed to end her own use of hypertension medication.

She said: “We want to provide awareness around what you can do differently, not just check your health, because you don’t necessarily have to be on these prescriptions for the rest of your life, there are things that can be done.”

Annabel Fountain, an endocrinologist whose work includes treating people with hypertension, highlighted the importance of reducing salt intake, particularly for people of west African descent.

She said that customers needed to “demand” that food served in restaurants and at deli bars was healthier.

Dr Fountain added that being overweight, a lack of exercise and high stress levels increased the risk of hypertension.

Leonard Gibbons, a doctor who specialises in preventive care and lifestyle coaching, also spoke at the event, which was supported by insurance giant Chubb.

Claudette Fleming, the executive director of Age Concern Bermuda, at a health checks event (Photograph supplied).