A new Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program has gotten underway at the Hodding Carter Memorial YMCA.
According to the American Heart Association, of the nearly 80 million adults who have high blood pressure in this country, less than half have it under control.
The Y designed the program to assist adults with hypertension lower and manage their blood pressure.
The focus of the four-month program is regulated home self-monitoring of one’s blood pressure using proper measuring techniques, individualized support and nutrition education for better blood pressure management.
CEO of Hodding Carter Memorial Bob Williams along with Healthy Heart Ambassadors April Humphrey and Josh Campbell talked about the benefits of the program and how adults who would be eligible should take advantage.
“There is no reason for a person that is concerned about their health not to consider this program,” Williams said.
Humphrey and Campbell received program training from the Mississippi State Department of Health and YUSA via classroom and online courses to be Healthy Heart Ambassadors during the fall.
Both ambassadors said they are devoted to the health and wellness of others.
“Basically, what we’re trying to do is reach the community of people that have been recently diagnosed with high blood pressure or have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and inform them and educate them on how to better live their lives,” Campbell said. “What we’re doing is bringing them in and offering a four-month scholarship to the Y.”
The program includes access to YMCA’s Healthy Heart Ambassadors, along with private consultations, access to the YMCA facility for all fitness needs, monthly seminars, weekly check-ins by phone or email from a Healthy Heart Ambassador, and more.
Program participants are asked to attend two personalized consultations per month as well as the monthly nutrition education seminars.
Williams added because the program is grant funded, use of the Y’s facilities for those four months are at no cost to the participant; it is a scholarship the program provides.
Anyone who wishes to participate in the program must be at least 18 years of age or older and have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and/or on antihypertensive medication.
In addition, those interested in participating must not have had a recent cardiac event, cannot have atrial fibrillation or other arrhythmias and cannot have or be at risk for lymphedema.
Campbell and Humphrey stressed how imperative it was for participants to comply with the check-ins and nutritional education seminars as part of their participation in the program.
“Our ultimate goal is just to educate the community on different things and how to change their lifestyle,” Humphrey said.
As Healthy Heart Ambassadors, Campbell and Humphrey will receive participants, register them, take down their blood pressure and educate them on how to do home self-monitoring to help them understand the importance of monitoring their own blood pressure.
Participants can start the program at any time with it being four months for the individual; the four months begin only when a participant signs up.
“We give them some pamphlets and write-outs of how to eat a little better and encourage them to exercise while they’re here. If we have time, we show them how to use machines and recommend what they should do first to help with he cardiovascular system,” Campbell said.
When participants come in for nutritional education seminars once a month, which are no more than an hour long, the materials are YUSA provided and formulated by health and wellness experts.
If a participant does not have his or her own blood pressure monitor, the program will provide them use of one which they must return when the program is over.
“The whole idea is to make them aware and make them start taking blood pressure readings daily,” Williams said.
High blood pressure is the most prevalent in racial and ethnic minority populations, and is often referred to as “The Silent Killer” because there are typically no warning signs or symptoms.
High blood pressure is a key, modifiable, risk factor for both heart disease and stroke, which are two of the leading causes of death in the United States.
Campbell talked about a close friend of his who went to the doctor and was diagnosed with high blood pressure.
“They immediately gave him medicine, but he started exercising and eating better,” Campbell explained. “He went back to the doctor and they said he didn’t have to have medicine.”
Campbell added his friend wasn’t in any program, he just took it upon himself.
“Just because you get diagnosed with hypertension doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world, you can still have a very active life. With correct diet management and exercise, it’s manageable,” he said.
Williams said the Hodding Carter Memorial’s location is one of two YMCA locations in Mississippi that started the program this week, with the other being in Jackson. There are plans to expand the program to Columbus and Hattiesburg soon.
Williams recalled when Hodding Carter Memorial was first approached by the Mississippi State Department of Health about installing a program in 2018.
“It sounded really exciting, but for whatever reason the funding did not come through and after a while, I forgot about the program,” he said, also noting the countless programs that come across his desk.
Williams shared a year ago, the Mississippi State Department of Health came back and said, “Hey, we think we’ve got the money and we want to do a blood pressure self-monitoring program.”
However, according to Williams, the program got kicked from January to about summer, and when they came back that time, they really did have funding.
The two entities which provide funding for the program are the Mississippi State Department of Health and YUSA.
Having enough funding for a 10-month run with Mississippi State Department of Health and YUSA monies, Williams said he knew in August 2019 the program would be a reality.
To register for the Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program, call the YMCA at 662-335-7258 and ask for April or Josh.