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. And, while at the doctor’s office, do two things to help control heart disease, stroke and worse COVID-19 outcomes:
— Know the proper technique for the most accurate blood pressure reading.
— 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 Los Angeles County, an estimated 2 million people have high blood pressure. Among Latino adults 20 years of age and older from 2015 to 2018, 50.6% of the males and 40.8% of the females had high blood pressure. It is 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.
“It is important for people, in addition to leading a healthy lifestyle, to pay attention to their blood pressure,” said cardiac surgeon Richard J. Shemin, MD, Board President, American Heart Association Los Angeles. “High blood pressure is a silent disease leading to stroke, heart attack and kidney failure. Now more than ever, people have to work with a health care professional to control their blood pressure levels to help manage their risks for heart disease”
“The best way for a person to know their blood pressure is to have it measured at least once per year by a healthcare professional. For those with elevated blood pressure, regular monitoring of blood pressure at home is essential. For most people, a normal blood pressure should be 120/80 or less. Knowing how to get the most accurate blood pressure reading helps your doctor determine the best treatment options,” Shemin 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 also 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 QueensCare Health Center in Los Angeles 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 Anthem Blue Cross Foundation.
“Anthem Blue Cross’ commitment to improving health outcomes has brought us together with the American Heart Association to introduce innovative approaches that take some of the complexity out of healthcare, raise awareness and can even save lives,” said David Pryor, MD, regional vice president & medical director, Anthem Blue Cross.
“By understanding our communities’ most pressing healthcare needs and giving Californians access to resources that can help them take control of their health, we believe that we will succeed in building healthier, stronger communities across our state.”
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.
For more information, visit empoweredtoserve.org/COVID19response or call (213) 291-7000.