Gerald Williams believed that he was pretty fit and was living a fairly active lifestyle.
But the former HGV driver was shocked when a Health Check at his GP surgery discovered he was at serious risk of a stroke.
His blood pressure was so high that healthcare support worker Leanne Davies referred him that afternoon to see a GP at Forest View Medical Centre, Treorchy.
His combined test results placed him at a significant 32% risk of a stroke or cardiac event, and, at the age of 66, he was found to have the heart age equivalent to a 76 year old.
Gerald’s case was highlighted on BBC Wales Today as an example of how the Health Checks initiative is helping to reduce cardiovascular disease in Cwm Taf.
“I could see something was not right by the look on her face when she took my blood pressure,” said Gerald, 66 of Gelli Fron, Pentre.
His blood pressure reading of 218/120 has now been reduced to a more normal 135/75 by medication, while his cholesterol level has also been brought under control.
The former winger for Ystrad Rhondda rugby club had always been active, is still playing golf, walking his pet spaniel, and looking after his grandson.
“I thought I was quite active compared to my friends and I was the one held up at fit as a fiddle,” he said.
“I had had regular medicals as an HGV driver without a problem.
“So I had no idea my blood pressure was like a ticking time bomb,” he said.
Since his health check, Gerald has kept an eye on his diet with the help of his wife and daughter, who is a nurse.
He lost over a stone in weight and is now 12st 2lbs.
“You can only imagine what might have happened. When I told my daughter about my blood pressure, she said, ‘dad, get back up there’.
“I could have been facing a stroke or even worse. I know what a stroke can do because my mother had one suddenly aged 49, when I was 18. So I was right to get checked out and would encourage anyone who receives an invitation for a Health Check to take it up, no matter how you are feeling.”
Healthcare support worker Leanne Davies said that Gerald’s blood pressure reading was the highest she had personally recorded and she had asked the team’s senior nurse to check it.
“When Gerald came into the surgery later, I hadn’t seen him for a while and he looked so different after losing his weight. He has done really well.”
At least 40 early deaths could be prevented if the loss of life from cardiovascular disease in the Cwm Taf University Health Board area were reduced to the Welsh average.
Patients aged 40-75 registered with GPs in Cwm Taf are being offered a health check which can identify ways of them avoiding preventable death from heart attack, diabetes and stroke.
Cwm Taf Public Health Consultant Sara Thomas said: “We know that on average people in the most deprived parts of Cwm Taf, such as the Valleys, have poorer health and are dying up to seven years earlier than those in more affluent areas.
“The aim of this programme is for people to live longer but also to live a healthier, better quality of life. We would encourage those invited to take up this offer of a free health check.”
The three-year Cardiovascular Risk Reduction programme deploys healthcare support workers in GP practices who are trained to do the health check using software which calculates their risk and their ‘heart age’.
A video about the work of the Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Programme can be found here: https://youtu.be/8GzmkKHq2Zc