Minorities using a community-based program significantly lowered their blood pressure, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research 2014 Scientific Sessions.

Researchers assessed the use of the American Heart Association’s Check. Change. Control. program in 18 urban, predominantly African-American communities where there was a high rate of high blood pressure.

The 4,069 participants used the program over four months in 2013 in churches, workplace wellness facilities, healthcare centers and housing centers.

Those who checked their blood pressure more often had the largest drop in blood pressure, according to researchers. Volunteers who led the activities had the best results. The program included blood pressure monitoring kits and blood pressure checks during organized activities like walking clubs and cooking classes.

“This program capitalizes on local resources that can bring about change in behavior and improve blood pressure rates,” said Monique Anderson, M.D., the study’s lead researcher and a medical instructor in cardiology at the Duke Clinical Research Institute and the Duke School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. “As participants became more knowledgeable, they probably started exercising more, taking their medication more, and those who were really engaged showed dramatic responses in blood pressure change.”

They also found:

  • Among all participants, systolic pressure dropped 7.5 mmHg and diastolic dropped 3.3 mmHg during the study period.
  • When participants entered at least eight of their readings, the reduction was even greater: 13.9 mmHg in systolic and 5.0 mmHg in diastolic.
  • The largest average reduction at one site was 29.8 mmHg (systolic) and 9.9 mmHg (diastolic).

While each community could design some elements of their program, they shared factors that were easy to replicate and implement:

  • Encouraging participants to use the online tool Heart360 to upload and track their blood pressure.
  • Having American Heart Association staff leading the programs and collaborating with businesses and senior residential institutions.
  • Holding hypertension education classes and actively following up with participants by phone or in person.

About 78 million people in the United States have high blood pressure. It’s called the silent killer because it typically has no symptoms. Some populations, including African-Americans, have higher risks of developing high blood pressure.

“Check. Change. Control. is remarkable because of its size and scope and its impact on public health,” said Eric Peterson, M.D., M.P.H., principal investigator. “But rather than just being satisfied with success, we’re trying to understand which parts of the program were most effective so we can improve it as it is expanded to the rest of the nation.”

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