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Denise urges public to check blood pressure this World Hypertension Day after ‘ticking time bomb’ warning

17 May 2023
Denise 1

Denise Davison from Saintfield was told by doctors she was a ‘ticking time bomb’ after being admitted to hospital with dangerously high blood pressure. Denise’s high blood pressure was only detected after she attended an event, at which, Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke (NICHS) was offering blood pressure checks. Denise is sharing her story this World Hypertension Day in support of the local health charity’s current blood pressure awareness campaign.

NICHS is concerned about the number of people living with undetected high blood pressure in Northern Ireland, and the fact 1 in 2 heart attacks and strokes are linked to the condition. Denise’s story highlights how dangerous undetected and untreated high blood pressure can be, and she wants to share her experience to help educate others and encourage them to get their blood pressure checked.

Denise says; “I didn’t have any worries about my health previous to what happened to me. I am only 55 and have always tried to keep myself fit and healthy. I’m part of a running club, I enjoy walking the dog, I do strength conditioning classes. But I am lucky to be able to share my story as I was on the verge of suffering a very serious health event. That is exactly why I am sharing my story- to make other people aware they could find themselves in a similar situation to me, without any warning, and to have their blood pressure checked, whether they think there might be any issues with this or not.”

Denise was at an event at her husband’s running club, at which Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke’s Health Promotion team had been booked to deliver blood pressure checks. Denise recalls; “I was listening to a talk and I noticed the lady from NICHS at the back of the room doing blood pressure checks. I thought I may as well have mine done as I couldn't remember the last time I had my blood pressure checked. My youngest son is 24 and it could have been that long ago!”

“There was a bit of a queue and I was going to leave it but then somebody said to go ahead of them, so I stayed. Valerie, from NICHS, took my blood pressure and said she wanted to check it on my other arm as the reading was coming back very high. She completed the second check and then said she wanted me to go outside, walk around for 10 minutes and come back in for another reading. I did that, but my blood pressure was still 229 over 107 which is dangerously high.”

“Valerie recommended that I go to A&E. I think she must have looked at my expression and thought, “She's not going to go”, so she said alternatively I could go home, call the GP out of hours service and see what they advised. I decided to do that and waited for about an hour after phoning the out of hours service, but I didn’t get a call back. I then thought I would be better off going to A&E, just in case. I went to the Ulster Hospital and was seen very quickly.”

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“At the hospital I had a chest X-ray, ECG blood tests and constant blood pressure checks. After about five hours of that, I was admitted to a ward, where I stayed for two nights. I was started on the blood pressure medication that I am still taking now, and the doctor told me I was a ticking time bomb. Those were very frightening words to hear.”

Denise continues; “I am someone that is health conscious and I try to look after myself. I run three to four times a week as well as doing other exercise and I hadn’t experienced anything, no symptoms or warning signs, that would have made me concerned about my blood pressure or health in general. This all came as a complete surprise.”

“The only reason I had my blood pressure checked that day was because NICHS happened to be there and I thought, ‘why not get a check?’. If that person hadn’t let me jump in front of them in the queue I would have gone home and who knows what would have happened. As NICHS’s blood pressure awareness campaign highlights, one in two heart attacks and strokes are linked to high blood pressure. I am just so lucky that mine was caught and treated in time- I was on a trajectory of something terrible happening.”

Since her diagnosis Denise has discovered high blood pressure is something that runs in her family. She says; “After speaking to my family I’ve found out both my grandfather and uncle died from strokes in their sixties and my mum is on blood pressure medication. Two of my brothers are also on medication for their blood pressure and when I told my other brother about what happened to me he went and got his blood pressure checked. It is high too, so he is going to be put on a blood pressure monitor. Also, out of six of my cousins, five of them are on blood pressure medication. This has really highlighted to me just how many people are affected by high blood pressure, so I want to help spread the message of how important it is to get your blood pressure checked.”

Thankfully Denise is on a treatment plan for her high blood pressure and is seeing improvements. She concludes; “I’m definitely feeling better and more like myself now I am on medication and my body has got used to this. I am back exercising again and enjoying it.”

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“Even now I carry the little slip of paper that Valerie wrote my blood pressure reading on with me as a reminder of how lucky I am. My blood pressure was dangerously high and if I hadn’t had it checked that day things could have turned out completely differently for me. I might not have been here, able to share my story. That alternative doesn’t bear thinking about. Valerie and NICHS’s blood pressure checks service really did save my life and I am so grateful for this. My message to everyone is to get checked as it could just save your life too.”

Fidelma Carter, Head of Public Health at NICHS says; “We are very grateful to Denise for sharing her story as it shows just how dangerous undetected and untreated high blood pressure can be.”

“Over 280,000 people, or around 1 in 5 of the adult population in Northern Ireland, are living with high blood pressure¹ but there is a significant number of people, around 120,000, who have high blood pressure and do not realise it. Shockingly, this means at least a quarter of the adult population here live with high blood pressure. This gives us great cause for concern due to the fact one in two heart attacks and strokes are linked to the condition and it is something our current blood pressure awareness campaign aims to change.”

“Undetected high blood pressure is often known as ‘The Silent Killer’ due to the fact it rarely causes any physical symptoms or warning signs and is often only discovered after someone suffers a stroke or heart attack. The only way to know what your blood pressure is, and if it is high, is to have it measured and that is what we are urging the public to do this World Hypertension Day.”

Fidelma continues; “A blood pressure check is simple and only takes a few minutes, but it really could help save your life. There are a number of ways you can get your blood pressure checked. You can make an appointment with your GP or visit your local pharmacy which may operate a blood pressure monitoring service. You could also buy a blood pressure machine for home monitoring.”

“Alternatively, you could attend the free pop-up blood pressure checks we will be delivering at selected stores of our corporate partner MACE and shopping centres across Northern Ireland during the campaign. The NI Chest Heart and Stroke Health Promotion team will be at Abbey Centre today from 10am until 4pm providing pop-up blood pressure checks to shoppers. Our website and social media channels have all the details about future pop-up checks so please follow us online for more information.”

“We will also be hosting an Online Blood Pressure Advice Session featuring clinicians and health professionals on 1st June as part of the campaign. This is open to everyone and attendees will be able to send in questions in advance of the session. Information about preventing, detecting and managing high blood pressure to help reduce stroke and heart attack risk will be discussed at the session. All the details on how to join the advice session are available on our website at, where you can also find lots of resources and information about blood pressure.”

For further information and support about blood pressure, visit