Glenn Hoddle: Ex-England manager wants football fans to get their blood pressure checked

Former England football manager Glenn Hoddle has teamed up on a campaign urging men to get their blood pressure checked. Abi Jackson finds out more.

Glenn Hoddle said he stills feels like he is “playing extra time” nearly six years after surviving a cardiac arrest. The former footballer and England and Tottenham Hotspur manager has teamed up on a new campaign urging all men to get their blood pressure checked.

“Every second is a precious second now, because I was gone, and if it wasn’t for CPR, I wouldn’t be sitting here today, to be quite honest. I owe my life to somebody who did CPR, and then I had the quadruple bypass,” said Hoddle, who collapsed while filming for BT Sport in 2018 on his 61st birthday (a colleague performed life-saving CPR until help arrived).

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“Life is very precious, and I found that out in a very, very dramatic way. Life has always been precious, but even more so now. I feel as if in football terminology, I call it my extra time – I’m playing extra time at the moment. And long may that continue – I just hope it doesn’t go to penalties!”

Glenn Hoddle prior to the FA Cup Final at Wembley in 2019. Picture:  Mike Egerton/PA.Glenn Hoddle prior to the FA Cup Final at Wembley in 2019. Picture:  Mike Egerton/PA.
Glenn Hoddle prior to the FA Cup Final at Wembley in 2019. Picture:  Mike Egerton/PA.

Following the deaths of two fans and 26 medical emergencies in football crowds in just over two years, as well as a number of players suffering heart events on the pitch, the game has helped put a spotlight on men’s health.

Hoddle, 66 – who became a pundit and commentator after retiring from coaching and managing – has now joined up with Well Pharmacy on their new Blood Pressure United campaign, to encourage football fans to check their blood pressure.

Middle-aged men are among the most likely group to have untreated high blood pressure (hypertension), according to NHS England data.

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And while hypertension can be managed, usually with a combination of healthy lifestyle measures and medication when required, it is often dubbed a ‘silent killer’ due to people being unaware they’re affected.

Hoddle in 1983 while playing for Tottenham Hotspur. Picture: Alamy/PA.Hoddle in 1983 while playing for Tottenham Hotspur. Picture: Alamy/PA.
Hoddle in 1983 while playing for Tottenham Hotspur. Picture: Alamy/PA.

This can lead to major health problems further down the line. For example, according to the charity Blood Pressure UK, high blood pressure is a contributing factor in half of all strokes and heart attacks.

“That’s the key to it all – it can creep up on you if you don’t keep ahead of it. It’s about prevention really,” said Hoddle.

“Since I had my cardiac arrest, I’ve got [a blood pressure monitor] at home that we look at every couple of weeks. But unless you’re going to a doctor, or you have to go to A&E or into hospital, you never really have it done, do you?

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Blood pressure is a warning sign, whether it’s too high or too low, it’s a warning sign that can prevent so much. And there’s nothing to be scared of, there’s no blood being taken, it’s just a blood pressure reading that can be done in a minute.”

A poll of male football fans on behalf of the campaign found more than half of men aged 44 and under are ‘unsure or unaware’ of the consequences of untreated hypertension.

And just eight per cent of the men surveyed said they’ve had their blood pressure checked at a local pharmacy – despite free tests being available for over-40s.

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Hypertension is a contributing factor in half of all strokes and heart attacks in the UK, says Welll, adding that it was was responsible for some 75,000 deaths in England in 2015.

Around one in three adults has high blood pressure in England but as many as half of them may not know they have it due to the condition showing very few symptoms.

In England, some 30 per cent of men and 26 per cent of women have the condition, which is most prevalent in adults aged 65 and over. For men, untreated hypertension is most common in those aged 45 to 65 years of age.

Lifestyle and stress are big factors when it comes to high blood pressure, and a Well Pharmacy poll of male football fans reveals one in four find following their team very or extremely stressful. One in 10 men aged 35 to 44 say they drink around six units of alcohol (about three pints of lager) on a match day, while one in 20 say they drink more than 10 units (five pints), the Well Pharmacy poll also found.

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The campaign will see a bus visiting football grounds across the UK offering fans free blood pressure checks.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Hoddle added: “The bus will be going out to football fans and particularly males – who often look after their cars better than they look after their bodies! They’ll be MOT-ing their cars before their bodies.”

The lifelong football fan – who became a Tottenham supporter as a child and later started training with the club while still at school – is keen to reassure other men that even if you do have high blood pressure, it’s better to know sooner rather than later so it can be managed.

“If everything is absolutely tickety-boo, then fine, they can go on with confidence. And if [it is high], then you look at your diet, you look at your habits, what you’re eating, drinking. And if there is a little pill that you have to take, that’s going to regulate it – it’s about regulation and getting it functioning correctly.

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“There’s a lot you can find out quickly from having your blood pressure done, and it’s nothing to be scared about – you want to be forewarned, you want to nip it in the bud if there is a problem in your body, as soon as you can,” Hoddle added.

As well as regularly monitoring his own blood pressure, Hoddle said he is mindful of his diet. He also takes medication for atrial fibrillation (AF – a condition that can cause an irregular and abnormally fast heartbeat) and statins, which are used to treat high cholesterol.

“But at the moment, everything is tickety-boo, thankfully,” Hoddle added. “Only when Tottenham play does [my blood pressure] go up too high!”

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