It has been an exciting time to be part of the American Heart Association Coachella Valley team as we continue to ramp up our community health efforts.

In October, we launched a free heart-healthy monitoring program for seniors in east Coachella Valley called CHECK, CHANGE, CONTROL. It is a four-month bi-lingual (English and Spanish) blood pressure program, which includes a self-monitoring system that seniors can utilize to track and monitor their blood pressure, and then send the information to their doctors. The program, which runs through February, also has education/awareness and nutrition components delivered via hands-on workshops.

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

Our Valley is one of the first to offer the AHA model program which launched simultaneously at both the Indio and Coachella Senior Centers. These centers were chosen because of their mission to enhance the quality of life for the region’s culturally diverse aging population.

CHECK, CHANGE, CONTROL goals are simple: 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.

High blood pressure is one of the most common causes of stroke, the 4th leading killer in the US, because it puts unnecessary stress on blood vessel walls, causing them to thicken and deteriorate. In the US, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds.

Fortunately, many strokes are preventable. The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association want you to invest in your heart health in order to reduce your stroke risk. These six actions are key to reducing your risk of stroke:

  • Know your blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol numbers and work to keep them in a healthy range.
  • Be physically active and exercise regularly.
  • Adopt a healthy diet.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Avoid cigarette smoke. If you smoke, seek help to stop now.
  • Learn to recognize the warning signs of a stroke and how to take action.

While some risk factors can’t be changed, stroke is not inevitable just because you have an uncontrollable risk factor. It simply means you need to pay special attention to risk factors that can be eliminated or controlled.

CHECK, CHANGE, CONTROL is brought to the Coachella Valley by the Auen Foundation.

Cindy Stillman is the Executive Director of the American Heart Association’s Coachella Valley team and can be reached at (760) 346.8109. For more information on heart health and the signs of stroke, visit

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