CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — According to the American Heart Association, West Virginia has the second-highest rate of hypertension in the U.S. However, a national program is helping people in the Mountain State get the resources they need to combat it.
Target BP was established by the American Heart and American Medical Associations (AHA, AMA) back in 2015. The program is free for clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and allows them to enter their patients’ hypertension information into a data platform anonymously. This allows the AHA and AMA to asses their efforts and provide resources to the FQHCs that need it the most.
Holly Mitchell, West Virginia Community Impact Director for the AHA said that many people in the state are not getting adequate care for high blood pressure/hypertension because they don’t know their numbers, and people who need care sometimes can’t get to the facilities.
“We have wonderful partners all across West Virginia,” Mitchell said. However, she encouraged more centers to join the initiative.
Based on data provided by the 2022 American Heart Association Statistical Update, about 121.5 million adults across the country are living with high blood pressure. This makes up almost one half of adults in the country.
“We have nearly half of the adults in America that have high blood pressure and they don’t even know it,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said that one of the major contributing factors to so many people with high blood pressure nationwide is people being underdiagnosed. As a result, people can have a tendency to ignore warning signs because these things feel typical for them on a regular basis.
“If you don’t know that you have hypertension, you don’t know what’s going on with your body. And unfortunately, some folks walk around and they have high blood pressure, and they don’t feel any different because that’s their normal,” Mitchell said. “So, getting to know your numbers, having that relationship with your physician, your healthcare provider to understand these numbers and how it affects your health is super important.”
Mitchell grew up in Chelyan, WV and joined the AHA two years ago. She said that the Target BP program “has really brought me so much joy to my heart because I know folks are actually getting the help that they need in the communities.”
Mitchell said that this mission is impactful to her specifically because her own father passed away as a result of a heart attack a few years ago. She said that while her father was being treated at the Cabin Creek Health Center, he received adequate care because he was kept in the loop of what was going on with his health.
“It probably extended his life for that, so I’m really thankful that he had those initiatives and that he took control and got the care that he needed,” Mitchell saidd. “It’s really important that you know those numbers and have that because you can be there for your family.”
Mitchell is strongly encouraging FQHCs and clinics across the state to join the Target BP program if they haven’t already, since it is free. For anyone who needs help enrolling, questions can be sent to her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For patients that are already currently enrolled in a Target BP database, Mitchell is encouraging you to extend your information to include diabetes and cholesterol numbers “because knowing those numbers as well really can hone in on improving health overall.”