Control blood pressure, get vaccinated to reduce COVID-19, heart disease and stroke

American Heart Association provides community resources to curb high blood pressure, COVID-19 outcomes

NEW YORK, NY, October 4, 2021 — Since COVID-19 vaccine distribution began, people have ventured out, but rises in the Delta variant may be causing people to retreat home and delay important doctor’s visits. The American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, encourages people to wear a mask and visit their doctors. While at the doctor’s office, do two things to help control heart disease, stroke and worse COVID-19 outcomes:

  1. Know the proper technique for the most accurate blood pressure reading.
  2. Get a COVID-19 vaccination, especially important for those with uncontrolled blood pressure.

Close to half of American adults have high blood pressure. Of those, about 75% don’t have it controlled and many don’t even know they have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

In New York City 33 percent of Hispanics have high blood pressure. It’s a leading cause and controllable risk factor for heart disease and stroke and it can contribute to worse outcomes for people who contract COVID-19.

“Now, more than ever, it is important for people to pay attention to their blood pressure, know their numbers and work with a health care professional to control the levels and manage the risks,” said Rafael Ortiz, M.D., President of the American Heart Association Board of Directors in New York City and Chief of Neuro-Endovascular Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and Northwell Health Western Region

“The best way for a person to know his or her blood pressure numbers is to have

Control blood pressure, get vaccinated to reduce COVID-19, heart disease and stroke

it measured at least once per year by a healthcare professional, regularly monitor it at home and discuss the numbers with a doctor. For most people, a normal blood pressure should be 120/80 or less. Knowing how to get the most accurate blood pressure reading helps to ensure the most appropriate treatment,” Dr. Ortiz said.

Whether blood pressure is being measured in the doctor’s office, at home or somewhere else, it’s important that it is measured with a validated device and these tips are followed for the most accurate reading:

  • Don’t smoke, eat or drink foods with caffeine, or exercise within 30 minutes of a blood pressure check.
  • Empty your bladder, and rest quietly for at least five minutes before having it measured.
  • Sit up straight on a firm chair with a back with feet flat on the floor with
  •  legs uncrossed.
  • Rest your arm on a flat surface with your upper arm at the level of your heart.
  • Place the bottom of the blood pressure cuff just above the bend of the elbow directly on your skin, not over clothing.
  • Take your blood pressure measurement at about the same time each day. Take two or three readings one minute apart and record the results on paper. Some blood
    pressure monitors will save results or let you upload them to a secure website. Share your results with your doctor. If the top number is consistently 130 or higher, or the bottom number is consistently 80 or higher, that’s considered high blood pressure.

Chronic conditions like uncontrolled blood pressure and COVID-19 are hitting historically under-resourced communities at disproportionate rates, resulting in heart and blood vessel damage causing more heart disease, heart attacks and strokes in those areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that a history of structural racism and social determinants of health causing lack of access to health care and healthy living options contribute to these outcomes.

According to the American Heart Association’s 2017 Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Management of High Blood Pressure, quality improvement strategies for health systems, health care providers and patients, and working with community organizations dedicated to blood pressure control could be effective in helping to control blood pressure in under-resourced communities.

Because of this, the American Heart Association is collaborating with community-based organizations and Federally Qualified Heath Centers (FQHCs) in 10 under-resourced communities across the country, including Ryan Health and VIP Community Services in New York City to provide free clinical training, blood pressure monitors, and other resources to health center professionals and patients to improve blood pressure control and reduce heart disease and stroke. This blood pressure and COVID-19 initiative is made possible by generous support from the Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation.

“At Empire, we are on a mission to materially and measurably improve the health of all New Yorkers, and to do this, we are looking to improve health outcomes related to four chronic conditions – the A,B,C,Ds – Asthma, Blood Pressure, Diabetes and Cancer. Blood pressure, already a challenge for New Yorkers, became even tougher for many to manage when combined with the impact of COVID-19,” said Alan Murray, president and CEO, Empire BlueCross BlueShield. “In the spirit of our mission, we are supporting the American Heart Association to empower two community-based organizations with resources to help people manage blood pressure. Thank you to the American Heart Association, Ryan Health, located throughout Manhattan, and VIP Community Services in the Bronx for working with New Yorkers across our great city to improve their health.”

“We are grateful we have been able to provide primary and specialty care to our patients throughout the pandemic, especially in light of the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on communities of color.  We are thankful for our collaboration with and support from the American Heart Association, which has enabled us to do so much more to assist our patients achieve better health,” said Debbian Fletcher-Blake, APRN, FNP, CEO VIP Community Services.

“Ryan Health is committed to providing affordable, high-quality care to New York’s most vulnerable communities. We are thrilled to have partnered with the American Heart Association (AHA) to help our patients better manage their blood pressure. Through AHA’s staff training efforts and the provision of blood pressure monitors so that our patients can accurately measure their own blood pressure at home, we know that we are making a difference in the lives of our patients with hypertension. Ryan Health looks forward to continuing our lifesaving work with AHA and better supporting our patients,” said Lydia Yeager, DNP, MSN, RN, CPNP-PC, AE-C, Director of Care Management, Ryan Health.

In addition to properly monitoring your blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, eating healthfully, reducing or eliminating alcohol or tobacco will help with blood pressure control. However, if you do develop high blood pressure, working with a health care professional on a plan to keep it controlled can help you to stay healthy.

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