McMaster’s is helping raise awareness of the importance of regular blood pressure monitoring.

McMaster’s Department of Family Medicine is helping raise awareness of the importance of regular blood pressure monitoring.

A recently launched "Community Hypertension Awareness Program" (CHAP) is 'closing the loop' between health promotion activities in the community, and clinical care by family doctors.

Steady attendance at the ‘CHAP’ blood pressure sessions reveals that many older adults are interested in having their blood pressure measured and their cardiovascular risk factors recorded and sent to their family doctor, according to Janusz Kaczorowski, research director in the Department of Family Medicine. To date, more than 600 Grimsby-area residents have attended sessions for blood pressure monitoring and cardiovascular risk assessment in local pharmacies.

Grimsby/Lincoln/West Lincoln is one site of this community-wide cardiovascular health promotion program funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care as part of the province’s Stroke Strategy. The program is an initiative of the McMaster’s Department of Family Medicine, the Élisabeth Bruyère Research Institute in Ottawa, the Kidney Foundation of Canada, and the Team for Individualizing Pharmacotherapy in Primary Care for Seniors.

"The goal is to raise awareness of the health problems associated with high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors and the importance of monitoring blood pressure regularly, especially for older adults," says Kaczorowski. "The core of the program is the feedback of accurate information collected at pharmacy sessions to family doctors so that it can assist in the care of individual patients."

Nearly all family doctors and pharmacists in the Grimsby, Beamsville and Smithville are involved in the program, also taking place in Brockville, Ontario. Some attendees were invited to attend sessions in a personalized invitation letter from their family doctor, or a flyer provided at an office visit, but many heard about the program through media advertising and word of mouth.

Hypertension increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Early diagnosis and control of high blood pressure can reduce the risk of these problems.

"The CHAP program is a way for community residents, especially older adults, to have their blood pressure measured with an accurate, automated device, the BPM-TRU, in a familiar setting," Kaczorowski says. "Since some people experience elevated blood pressure when they visit the doctor's office, a condition called "white-coat hypertension", community based monitoring can help doctors get a more accurate picture of blood pressure when measured outside the office. Others might suffer from a condition called "masked hypertension", where their blood pressure appears to be normal when measured in the doctor’s office but is elevated otherwise."

At the sessions, trained local volunteers help participants to measure their blood pressure, record the reading, and complete a checklist of other cardiovascular risk factors. These results are then sent to the participant’s family doctor, and can also be sent to his or her regular pharmacist. Participants also take home a copy of their results, and have the option of using a personal ID and password to access their results on the Web.

Information is available on blood pressure, conditions associated with the elevated blood pressure and local resources for lifestyle modification to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The program is in week six of 10, continuing to the end of May. Schedules are available to pick up in pharmacies and family doctors’ offices, and are printed in the local newspaper. Since several blood pressure readings are better than one, multiple visits are encouraged. Program staff and volunteers are hoping to have more than 3,000 visits to the sessions in April and May. If interest remains high, the program may be extended. The program team is exploring expansion to more communities.

For more information about the program, visit https://chapprogram.ca/ or contact Janusz Kaczorowski at 905-521-2100 ext. 76198 or Tina Karwalajtys at 905-521-2100 x76189.

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