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Learn blood pressure self-management steps

Brittany Marshall of Inland Northwest Health Service will lead meetings at INHS to teach people how to manage their blood pressure with diet and exercise. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Brittany Marshall of Inland Northwest Health Service will lead meetings at INHS to teach people how to manage their blood pressure with diet and exercise. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

You’re told to lower blood pressure, but how?

To go beyond a handout or general guidelines from the doctor’s office, consider taking a class.

Inland Northwest Health Services Community Wellness recently launched its Blood Pressure Self-Management Program, offering classes to the public. People meet once a week for a four-week session.

Participants who pay $40 per session learn about diet and exercise to help manage blood pressure. By attending all four classes, they also receive a free digital blood pressure cuff that’s automated to continue self-monitoring at home.

Brittany Marshall, an INHS senior project coordinator, said the first workshop started in February, and the next session begins March 20. They offer interactive activities and lecture-style content held in the INHS Community Wellness space on the Riverpoint campus.

“This is giving people some knowledge and tools to help them lower blood pressure,” Marshall said. “There really isn’t an education program in the community for hypertension, how to lower blood pressure and you don’t get a lot of time with the doctor. We designed this class for people to learn a little more about how they can do that.”

She is one of the teachers of the new class. Participants also learn how to self-monitor and take their own blood pressure.

The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recently changed guidelines for what’s considered high blood pressure, lowered to 130/80 compared with previously at 140/90.

When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through the network of arteries, veins and capillaries. The first number in blood pressure readings is systolic pressure occurring as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries. The second number is diastolic pressure, created as the heart rests between heart beats, the AHA says.

The INHS sessions cover information about Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or the DASH diet, for an eating plan that emphasizes fruit and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean proteins.

“It’s also reducing sodium and getting nutrients that help lower blood pressure,” Marshall said. “Those foods encouraged in the eating plan help you get those nutrients.

“If you’re able to reduce sodium intake, eat a healthy diet and do physical activity – all are controllable elements that hopefully help you lower your blood pressure, and then you continue doing self monitoring.”

People aren’t required to get a doctor’s referral to take the class, she said. Class members also are welcomed if they want to keep themselves from developing high blood pressure, but they aren’t categorized as having the condition, she said.

“There are several risk factors you have no control over – age, gender, family history. There are a couple of things you can’t do anything about, if you do have those risk factors.”

The classes are taught by health educators, so if people have medical questions, they would need to be directed to doctor, Marshall added. “But we will be talking about the lifestyle changes you can make.”

Educators will use PowerPoint presentations with printouts for participants to write notes, she said.

“We’ll have a couple of handouts, like for physical activity and strength training. For DASH, we’ll have a healthy meal planner, and we’ll also have blood pressure booklets for tracking readings and keeping a log.”

For the four-week session, each class is typically 90 minutes, she said.

After March 20, other sessions are set to begin April 17 and May 9, with additional classes likely to occur in July, September and November. Most are evening classes. In May, a morning class will be offered at 10 a.m.

“If we have a big interest, we might add more,” Marshall said.

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