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A Positive Heart Health Impact

AHA program raises awareness and reduces blood pressure

By Lauren Del Sarto

A Healthier Community - Non ProfitsProactive community members at the Indio and Coachella senior centers saw their numbers drop by participating in a 4-month educational program conducted by the American Heart Association Coachella Valley Division.

The Get to Goal hypertension management program ran from October 2013 through February 2014. Program goals were:

  1. increase awareness of the connection between hypertension and other chronic and debilitating health concerns;
  2. increase the number of individuals identified as hypertensive/pre-hypertensive; and
  3. increase regular monitoring of blood pressure to ensure adequate prevention and control.

Participants measured their blood pressure a minimum of twice per month with testing machines installed at each center and took part in a series of free educational workshops on heart disease, stroke, and healthy living.

In addition to achieving the program’s set goals, findings determined that the increase in knowledge about heart disease contributed to decreasing blood pressure levels among participants. Most importantly, by the end of the 4 months, there was a decrease in the number of participants who were considered hypertensive with severely elevated blood pressure levels. 

Significant improvements were observed at both sites. At Indio Senior Center, participants lowered their systolic blood pressure by an average of 9.3 mmHg and their diastolic by 5.3 mmHg. At Coachella Senior Center, participants lowered their systolic blood pressure by an average of 9.8 mmHg and their diastolic by 3.3 mmHg. 

In addition, 76% of participants improved their knowledge about heart disease, stroke, and associated risk factors as measured using a pre- and post-test knowledge acquisition survey. 

“This is the American Heart Association mission at work,” said Coachella Valley Division Board Chair-elect Steve Weiss. “By reducing hypertension, we are reducing a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.” 

The American Heart Association Get to Goal program was made possible by funding from the Auen Foundation who brought the program to the Coachella Valley.

“We are happy to support this program that encourages seniors to take control of their own health,” said Catharine Reed, Senior Program Officer for the Auen Foundation. “It’s exciting to see the success participants had in a short amount of time, which demonstrates that education and resources can make a difference in people’s lives.”

The program was tailored at each site to meet the needs of the community. For example, the seniors at Indio were bilingual, whereas the seniors at Coachella were Spanish-speaking only. The centers were very involved throughout the entire process, which was critical to the success of the program.   

According to recently published data from the Health Assessment Resource Center (HARC), hypertension rates among east Riverside County seniors are as high as 41.5% for individuals of “normal weight” and increases to 57.3% for individuals considered to be overweight/obese. 

Desert Health® applauds this collaboration between the Auen Foundation, the American Heart Association, the Coachella Senior Center and the Indio Senior Center as another great example of organizations coming together to improve the health and quality of life for Valley residents.

For more information, contact the AHA Coachella Valley Division at (310) 424.4163 or visit www.Heart.org.

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