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AHA lifestyle modification effort to normalize blood pressure among African Americans

24 Jan

Get to GoalPhoto by Wiley Price

Get to Goal

Sandii Leland Handrick, MPH, MBA, regional director of health equity for the American Heart Association (right), registers Kimberly Lovelady last week for the Get to Goal blood pressure management program. The registration took place at Christ Deliverance Ministry in St. Louis.

By Sandra Jordan

While the New Year is a traditional time to jumpstart fitness and dieting goals, the American Heart Association wants it to be a great time for St. Louisans to do a pressure check; blood pressure, that is.

Get to Goal is part of a nationwide effort to help African Americans manage and keep their blood pressure in the normal range, because they have a disproportionate share of negative outcomes due to cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

“Upwards of 40 percent of African Americans in general have high blood pressure and as a result, the cardiovascular target organ damage associated with high blood pressure and the mortality and death rates associated with high blood pressure are higher in the African American community than in other groups,” said Dr. Angela Brown, president-elect of the board of directors for the St. Louis area American Heart Association and a certified clinical hypertension specialist.

In addition, African Americans wind up getting more emergency treatment cardiovascular-related illnesses, some of which could have been prevented.

“African Americans are about six times more likely to go to the emergency room for complaints related to high blood pressure than any other group,” Brown said. “African Americans are not as engaged in primary care and screening as other groups and therefore are making more emergency room visits because of that.”

High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The AHA says a 5 point decrease (5 mmHG) in blood pressure can reduce mortality due to heart disease by 14 percent and reduce mortality due to stroke by 9 percent.

Increasing physical activity, healthier eating and managing high blood pressure through education, training and coaching individuals are the methods being used bring participants to their individual blood pressure goals through the program.

“We are talking about changing dietary measures, decreasing salt, eating a heart-healthy diet, low fat, low cholesterol, higher in fiber and calcium and potassium and specifically, engaging in regular physical activity and working on weight loss,” Brown said.

In the St. Louis area, AHA is recruiting about 350 persons, primarily African Americans, who will be closely monitored and supported for four months.

“They will receive blood pressure screenings twice a month for four months starting in January and the program will end around June,” Brown said. “They will have coaches who will be motivational to work with them; but the focus is really to focus on lifestyle modification.”

The high blood pressure rate among African Americans is the highest in the world, according to the AHA. Approximately 76 million Americans have hypertension and of those who are aware they have HBP, nearly half of them are not at their goal blood pressure range.

For African Americans, Brown explained, “High blood pressure tends to come on earlier in life; it tends to be more difficult to treat; blood pressures tend to be higher as well and as a result, the outcomes for African Americans are worse.”

AHA is wants to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans and reduce cardiovascular mortality by 20 percent by the year 2020. Get to Goal is one of the programs to achieve this goal.

For more information, call 314-692-5612 or visit www.heart360.org/gettogoalstlouis.

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