Senior African American Couple Exercising In ParkUnderserved programs in four parts of the country are receiving 400 upper-arm blood pressure monitors to help people in those areas track and control their blood pressure.

Donated by Omron Healthcare, as part of the American Heart Association’s Check. Change. Control program, some have been distributed and the rest will be handed out this spring.

“We often hear from participants that they cannot afford a blood pressure cuff because Medicare/Medi-Cal does not reimburse or because they cannot afford a machine,” said Sang-Mi Oh, vice-president of multicultural initiatives for the AHA’s Western States affiliate.

The monitors are going  to several counties in Northern California with high rates of uncontrolled blood pressure and high poverty.

In San Francisco, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, 42 percent of Latinos, 15 percent of African-Americans and 16 percent of Asians have uncontrolled blood pressure, Oh said.

Forty pantries and soup kitchens in these counties will use the monitors for twice-monthly blood pressure screenings in conjunction with a program to improve the nutrition of foods donated and prepared. For instance, some kitchens have removed sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar and salt from tables and no longer offer desserts.

The monitors are also going to rural Native-American communities in Southwest and Northern Oklahoma. About 35 percent of American-Indian/American-Native people in the state have high blood pressure, according to Brion Oaks, vice-president of health equity for the AHA’s SouthWest Affiliate. The goal is for participants to focus on self-monitoring.

Monitors also will be given to 17 YMCA locations serving Birmingham, Alabama, and 25 African-American and Latino churches in and around Memphis, Tennessee, to help low-income families.

High blood pressure, which is known as a “the silent killer,” is responsible for roughly 7.5 million deaths a year, according to the World Health Organization.