Wicklow health screenings under way

Checks to focus on blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and lifestyle


Free health checks are now under way for the citizens of Wicklow, with several community groups having already being screened as part of the Irish Times/Pfizer Healthy Town project.

The first health checks for the general public take place on Saturday next, September 21st, in the Parochial Hall. They are a full health assessment, focusing on issues such as blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and lifestyle.

The assessment takes 30 minutes and at the end of it you will receive a heart health record card with results and advice.

One of the most common health conditions in the Republic is high blood pressure which affects more than half of adults over 45 years old. It can caused by a variety of factors such as lack of exercise, being overweight, stress and other lifestyle issues. Age can also be a factor and high blood pressure is sometimes hereditary.

“We assess, but do not diagnose, that’s not our job, but we will advise people where appropriate,’’ says Carol Pye, a cardiac nurse, who is one of the team conducting the health checks, under the auspices of the Irish Heart Foundation.

The emphasis is on advice and guidance.”We can point things out and suggest making certain lifestyle changes, “ says Pye, “but there is no point giving out to people.”

The checks are aimed at all age groups. Pye says that while “you don’t expect to see problems as such in young people, but once you are in your ‘twenties, it is advisable to get a health check.”

This check can then be used in a “look back” the next time that person gets a health screening, perhaps a few years later.

So what about some general guidelines on weight, and exercise? For weight, a good guide is to measure the circumference of your waist: run a tape around your waist two inches above your belly button. A healthy waist for a man is less than 37 inches (94cm), a high risk is greater than 102cm or 40 inches.

For a woman a healthy waist is less than 80cm (32 inches), a high risk is over 88cm (35 inches).

On exercise, the current guidelines are 30 minutes brisk walking five times a week.

And alcohol? The bad news for some is the guidelines have been revised downwards in recent times. It is now 17 units a week for a man (down from 21 units) and 11 units per week for a woman (down from 14 units).

• For details on health check events, see the calendar on this website.