Getting your blood pressure checked is about to become easier than ever before for those in England.

Thousands of people will be able to have their blood pressure checked at barber shops, supermarkets, mosques and dominoes clubs.

It comes as the NHS is expanding blood pressure check services in local communities to help prevent strokes and heart attacks.

The “major drive” follows new NHS figures which show high street pharmacies delivered a total of 149,865 blood pressure checks to the over 40s in May 2023, more than double the 58,345 delivered the year before.

Following this, new funding as part of the primary care access recovery plan will see a further 2.5 million blood pressure checks in community pharmacies, which are estimated to prevent more than 1,350 cardiovascular events each year.

David Webb, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, said: “The enormous expansion in the number of blood pressure checks delivered over the last year is thanks to the hard work of community pharmacies which have more than doubled the number of blood pressure checks delivered, and the innovation of local teams, going into the heart of communities with mobile sites that can visit places like barber shops and dominoes clubs.”

The Health Foundation estimates that 9.1 million people will be living with a major illness by 2040, 2.5 million more than in 2019.

Webb added: “With the number of people living with major illnesses including heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions set to grow substantially over the coming years, it has never been more important to put in place preventative measures like easy to access blood pressure checks that can pick up the early signs and risks, with figures showing teams are on track to prevent more than 1,300 heart attacks and strokes this year alone.”

John Maingay, director of policy and influencing at the British Heart Foundation, has urged people to take up the local checks.

He said: “Having high blood pressure can significantly increase your risk of having a heart attack and stroke, but it can be difficult to know you have it unless you check because it doesn’t usually have any obvious symptoms.

“At a time when the NHS is busier than ever, making more of these free checks available in local communities has the potential to help millions more people improve their heart health, and prevent more heart attacks and strokes.

“We urge everyone to take up a free blood pressure check in your neighbourhood – it’s quick, easy, and could help save your life.”

What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

According to the NHS, symptoms of a heart attack can include:

  • chest pain – a feeling of pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across your chest
  • pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is spreading from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and tummy
  • feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
  • an overwhelming feeling of anxiety (similar to a panic attack)
  • coughing or wheezing

If you think somebody has gone into cardiac arrest, call 999 immediately and start doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).