Blood pressure program helps Hastings residents improve cardiovascular health

YMCA’s Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program
YMCA’s Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program(press release)
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 4:36 PM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - In October 2022, Marcia Vomweg of Hastings was taking medicines that caused her blood pressure to rise. Her sister told her about the Hastings YMCA’s Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program, and Vomweg thought she would try the program to help her combat her blood pressure concerns.

There are a variety of ways for people to manage their high blood pressure and the YMCA’s program helps educate people about changes they can make, teaches them how to measure their own blood pressure to track their progress and provides support to help people meet their blood pressure management goals. The YMCA’s blood pressure program is an evidence-based program that was launched in Hastings in June 2017 as one of the YMCA-USA’s first rural pilot programs in the nation.

Caleb Hahne, YMCA personal trainer, Wellness Coordinator, and one of the local Healthy Heart Ambassadors, said the program is offered through the Hastings YMCA because they knew it was a huge community need and wanted to help citizens out.

“We’re a community-based organization, so we’re all about getting outside of our walls, helping out our community, and this is just one way that we could do that,” Hahne said.

To be eligible for the program, adults must either be diagnosed with high-blood pressure or be on blood-pressure medication. Before someone starts the program, Hahne said they talk with them and make sure they’re ready for the program.

The four-month program helps participants learn how to manage high-blood pressure, identify and control triggers that raise blood pressure, and adopt healthier lifestyle changes, including eating habits.

Reading food labels and especially looking at sodium levels, was one of the tools Vomweg turned into a habit.

“That’s important because there’s a lot of sodium and some things that you wouldn’t even think about,” she said.

Hahne also gets participants into a routine of checking their blood pressure and shares exercising options with them to build a healthier lifestyle. An incentive to joining the program is a free four-month membership to the YMCA. Hahne said “exercise plays such a big role in a healthy lifestyle to help control your blood pressure. We wanted to encourage people to come in our doors and utilize some of the exercise equipment that we have. And we didn’t want the costs to be a barrier. I know the cost of membership can be a barrier for some people and we didn’t want that to play a role.”

Vomweg wanted to add to her exercise routine, such as walking, which is easy to do when there’s a track and treadmills available at the YMCA. Additionally, she’s gotten into the routine of checking her blood pressure more often and being aware of her BP numbers.

If participants in the program need a blood pressure monitor, the YMCA gives them one. As an incentive to finish the program, participants are allowed to keep the BP monitor so that they can continue to take their blood pressure and monitor their BP numbers.

Hahne said there are minimum requirements for participants on how often they should check their BP throughout the program. “We want them to check their blood pressure at home twice a month and then they come in twice a month as well to check their blood pressure [with us],” he said.

Vomweg and Hahne both agree the short-term program is worth it. “There’s no stress to it and it’s helpful,” Vomweg said. “And I think Caleb’s good to work with…and [the YMCA staff] show you how to use all the machines and the exercise equipment.”

Hahne added, “There’s no better time than now. We’re here to help and it’s free; the whole program is free.”

“We definitely have a need for this program in our four-county health district: nearly one in every three South Heartland adults has been diagnosed with high blood pressure (also called hypertension),” said Michele Bever, executive director at SHDHD. “Our department supports the YMCA’s Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program because it is an evidence-based program, which means it has been proven to work. It provides personalized support to individuals as they develop the habit of routinely self-monitoring their blood pressure.”

To learn more about the YMCA’s Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring program or to sign up for the program contact the YMCA at 402-463-3139 or South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211.