By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

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NEW ORLEANS – Good news for some people who get their blood pressure checked at the YMCA: A doctor will see you soon.

All across the country, many people already take part in the Y’s Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program. In 10 underserved communities, the American Heart Association will soon connect that program with local healthcare providers and offer other resources, such as Target: BP, an initiative that helps people keep their blood pressure under control.

The AHA and YMCA of the USA are investing more than $5 million – as well as specialists and other resources – into this pilot program, with the hope to expand it by 2020. There’s plenty of room for growth considering the Y has 2,700 locations and a presence in 10,000 communities.

“The Y is one of the few community-based organizations with the ability to scale a program that takes health care out of the clinic and directly to the people who need it most,” said Kevin Washington, president and CEO, YMCA of the USA. “Combining our reach with the American Heart Association’s expertise will enable thousands of people, especially those in underserved communities, to get the resources and support they need to control their high blood pressure.”

In announcing the program at Scientific Session on Sunday, AHA CEO Nancy Brown said the aim is to “transform communities.” Controlling blood pressure has that ability to be transformative because of how important it is to improving and extending lives.

There are rarely symptoms of high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), yet this condition puts people at a higher risk for heart attack, stroke and other debilitating health problems.

Some people are more likely to have it because of genetics, race and age. Regardless, there are many ways to get it under control, including lifestyle choices, physical activity and medications.

“High blood pressure is often referred to as ’The Silent Killer’ – 87 million adults in the U.S. have it, but less than half have it under control,” Brown said. “Extending care and services from the doctor’s office to the patient’s community holds promise to get blood pressure under control more quickly and effectively.”

This pilot will provide Ys with the most up-to-date, science-based programs shown to produce better control of blood pressure. It also will loop in the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program.

The AHA also will support the Y’s Healthy Heart Ambassadors, program leaders who are trained by the Y to help others to eat healthier, get physically active, understand the benefits of self-monitoring and learn how to properly take their own blood pressure.