New blood pressure self-monitoring program is changing lives in Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The YMCA of Greater Birmingham has started a program that is aimed at reducing hypertension. In just a few short months since it has been around, it has already seen a lot of success.

If you were to ask Christopher Lee how his heart was a few months ago, you wouldn’t have gotten a positive answer.

“My blood pressure was so high, that my body had gotten used to it being that high,” said Lee.

He was admitted to the hospital for a medical procedure. That was when doctors learned about his elevated blood pressure.

“First of all, I didn’t know I had high blood pressure,” said Lee.

It is a silent killer that can put you at high risk for a heart attack or stroke, two conditions that to claim the lives of over 16,000 Alabamians each year.

“A lot of people don’t have symptoms for high blood pressure,” Dr. Andrea Shirey with the Tannehill Health Center explained.

Shirey stressed the importance of regular blood pressure testing.

“African Americans are at higher risk. They definitely need to stay on top of that and check their blood pressure regularly,” warned Shirey.

The YMCA started their heart health program at the end of 2016. Lee started his journey to good heart health in October.

“I joined, and now you see the new me,” Lee said.

The 16-week program provides participants with a monitoring system, nutrition education, and a gym membership.

Lee’s doctor gave him a good bill of health after completing the YMCA health program. Through the use of the Omron at-home monitor and regular doctor visits, Lee was able to lose 17 lbs and lower his blood pressure and the dosage of his medication.

“I went down to 20 milligrams. I was about 232 lbs. I went down to 215. I feel great,” said Lee.

In addition to African Americans, women 65 years and older have the highest risk for high blood pressure as well. The YMCA heart health program is free. They have three sessions a year. The first one for 2017 starts in February. In order to qualify, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Must be diagnosed with high blood pressure
  • Must not have experienced a recent cardiac event
  • Must not have atrial fibrillation or other arrhythmias
  • Must not be at risk for lymphedema

For more information on this program, click here.

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