The NHS will offer men blood pressure checks at the barbers as new research shows they are twice as likely as women to have a heart attack.
Health leaders have revealed an additional 2.5 million free checks will be rolled out in the community each year as part of a drive to target men who are reluctant to go to the doctors.
They estimate the move could help prevent more than 1,350 heart attacks and strokes every year.
High blood pressure is the third biggest risk factor for a heart attack or stroke, behind smoking and poor diet.
Yet many men and women remain unaware they have it because there are often no obvious symptoms.
The NHS will offer men blood pressure checks at the barbers after new research shows they are twice as likely as women to have a heart attack (stock image)
Doctors want more lifesaving checks to be offered at barbers, churches, mosques, community centres and community clubs – in a bid to cases early.
It comes as new research presented at the world’s largest heart conference, shows the relative risk of heart attacks for British men is twice as high as it is for women.
More than 20,000 men and women in the UK aged over 40 were tracked between 1993 and 2018.
Compared to women, the relative risk for men of experiencing heart attacks and peripheral artery disease was two-fold higher.
They also had a 50 per cent higher risk of heart failure and atrial fibrillation, according to the results presented at European Society of Cardiology Congress.
Led by the University of Aberdeen, the study suggested men have a 42 per cent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
Researchers adjusted for a range of factors including ethnicity, deprivation, BMI, physical activity, alcohol intake and smoking status.
They found that men were more likely to experience a heart attack younger than women, typically experiencing them around the age of 50 compared to between 52-60 in women.
‘Men had a higher risk of incident cardiovascular disease throughout their lifetime than women, but these sex differences were most pronounced for myocardial infarction and peripheral artery disease, followed by atrial fibrillation, heart failure and cardiovascular mortality,’ the study concluded.
Lead researcher Dr Tiberiu Pana, an honorary research fellow at Aberdeen and a junior doctor in the NHS, said: ‘The advice is that men should start looking early at risk factors, like obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, and reach out to their GP to get those things addressed.
‘The earlier the better. There’s no harm in minimising your cardiovascular risk.’
Every year there are 100,000 hospital admissions due to heart attacks, one every five minutes.
The NHS has doubled the number of blood pressure checks it offers to people over 40 in the last year.
Figures published today reveal the total number of blood pressure checks delivered by pharmacy teams in May this year was 150,000, more than doubled the 58,000 delivered in May 2022.
Officials have now given the go-ahead for a huge expansion of the scheme following successful pilots.
Dr David Crichton, chief medical officer at NHS South Yorkshire, said expanding the scheme to locations like barbershops would allow doctors to ‘connect with people who wouldn’t usually have their blood pressure checked’.
Experts said it was important to stress that women too also face significant risks of heart attacks and strokes.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, of the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘This large study again highlights that men more commonly have heart attacks at a younger age than women.
‘Coronary heart disease is the most common killer of men.
‘If we consider the effects of heart disease over a lifetime we need to remember that it costs lives for both men and women.
‘Eating a healthy, balanced diet, being physically active, managing your weight and attending health checks when offered, can all help improve your chances of being free of cardiovascular conditions.’
Professor Bola Owolabi, NHS director of healthcare inequalities, said the plan would lead to easier access for those who are most at risk.
‘Whether it is the local church, mosque, community centre or a dominoes club – delivering blood pressure checks in the most convenient places to make it as easy as possible for people to check their risk.’
David Webb, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, said: ‘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.’