Students delivering life-saving heart health checks

High blood pressure is on the rise in South Australia with more than one in three, or 462,000 adults, walking around putting stress on their hearts every single day.

But a simple, painless test can change that and with high blood pressure (hypertension) a leading risk factor for heart disease – the biggest killer of South Australians – this week, being Heart Week, is the time to act. 

All this week the University of South Australia is partnering with the Heart Foundation to offer free Heart Health Checks to the community at UniSA’s Mobile Allied Health Clinics at Elizabeth and Salisbury.

Delivered by students supervised by UniSA Health Sciences Clinical Education Centre Coordinator, Sue Gash, bookings aren’t required and everyone is welcome to have their blood pressure taken and learn more about their heart health from the Heart Foundation.

“During the Heart Health Week event we will have a combination of three or four nursing, midwifery and occupational therapy students available every day to undertake the health assessments,” Gash says.

“Last year we undertook more than 1000 health assessments at 28 community centres or community events north of Adelaide so these students are committed and experienced.”

Heart Foundation South Australia CEO, Imelda Lynch, says undiagnosed or untreated high blood pressure is a ticking time bomb for heart disease and other serious illnesses like stroke, dementia and kidney disease and because people often don’t have symptoms they don’t think they are at risk.

“Heart disease is often called the ‘silent killer’ because you can’t tell if you’ve got it based on how you feel so you really need to get your blood pressure checked by a health professional and then take action to lower it,” Lynch says.

“Heart Week shines a spotlight on heart disease and this year we are giving people a timely reminder to get to know their blood pressure numbers by having a Heart Health Check.

“Once they know they have it high blood pressure, can be managed by many people with lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet that is low in salt, being physically active and not smoking.”

Sue Gash says everyone is welcome to drop into the Grenville Hub at Elizabeth every day but Wednesday this week from 10am to 2pm and the Jack Young Centre Salisbury at the same time on Wednesday for a professional blood pressure and Heart Health Check.

“Our students all volunteer their time and have to fit the clinics in around their course work and placement commitments but it is great experience for them and it really enhances their communication and clinical skills,” Gash says.

“Working in collaboration with community organisations in the north provides a valuable primary health care service to the community and benefits all students who volunteer at the events.”

UniSA double midwifery and nursing degree student, Nicole Standley, has been volunteering in the mobile clinics a couple of times a month for two years doing health checks including blood pressures, blood sugar levels and diabetes risk assessments.

“I love being out in the community, talking to people and providing a valuable service and it allows me to keep up my skills between placements in hospitals,” Standley says.

“Heart Health Checks are extremely important because many people do not visit their GP regularly and are unaware they have a problem but high blood pressure is picked up early it can be well managed.”

UniSA students will be running free professional blood pressure and Heart Health Checks all this week at the Grenville Hub - 10 Playford Boulevard, Elizabeth - Monday 1 May - Friday 5 May (excluding Wednesday 3 May) from 10am-2pm and the Jack Young Centre - 1 Orange Street, Salisbury - Wednesday 3 May from 10am – 2pm.

Media contact: Katrina McLachlan mobile: +61 414972537 email: katrina.mclachlan@unisa.edu.au

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