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Wear The Gown: Battling hypertension through home monitoring and a healthy diet

University Health, UT Health San Antonio, and the American Heart Association partnered together to address the issue.

SAN ANTONIO — Hypertension is often called the silent killer. That's because symptoms typically don't pop up until damage to the heart has already been done. A program which is a partnership between University Health's General Medicine Clinic, UT Health San Antonio, and the American Heart Association aims to get blood pressure monitoring kits in the hands of patients who could use them to take home in an effort to get their blood pressure to healthy levels.

"When a patient is seen in the clinic and their physician or advanced practice provider identifies that they have elevated blood pressure, we can provide them with this blood pressure monitor at no cost to them to use at home for a certain amount of time," said Dr. Ambili Ramachandran, the Co-Medical Director of the General Medicine Clinic at University Health, and an assistant professor in the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. She says this partnership with the AHA can be life-saving. Dr. Ramachandran added, "Our goal is to identify it by seeing a primary care doctor regularly and doing these sorts of things to measure blood pressure on your own at home." 

Some of the risk factors for high blood pressure include age, race, being overweight and sedentary, and having too much salt in your diet too. Normal blood pressure is 120 over 80. But at what point should somebody be concerned? Dr. Ramachandran told us, "Any numbers higher than that we are concerned for either elevated blood pressure that starts to be just a little bit higher, maybe in the 120s for the systolic blood pressure. And then if the top number is greater than 130 consistently, then we're more concerned about the diagnosis of hypertension." 

Patients are also asked to keep a log book of their blood pressure at home. As a second component of the program they are also screening for food insecurity. Dr. Ramachandran told us, "It's not unusual for a patient who has many of these chronic medical conditions that where we're treating hypertension, diabetes and so forth to have limited access to healthy foods." 

Through the program eligible patients are able to receive assistance in obtaining healthy foods. There are questions medical staff will ask patients to answer to qualify them for food vouchers and assistance, including questions about how worried the applicant has been about having enough food or enough money to buy more, whether or not they ran out of food or money to purchase more food, and whether or not they feel they need help obtaining food through vouchers, direction to a local pantry, or assistance through any food programs.

By teaching patients the best foods to eat, the bad habits to break, and how to properly measure their blood pressure at home, lives are being lengthened and saved. 

Anyone can use these suggestions to monitor their blood pressure. But if you are interested in participating in the blood pressure monitoring program or the health food program provided by University Health and UT Health San Antonio you can call 210-358-3400 and make an appointment with the Family Health Clinic or the General Medicine Clinic.

For more information on family health call 210-358-3045. You can also find the rest of our Wear The Gown stories just go to WearTheGown.com.

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