UMMC Launches Program to Help African-American Men Identify, Treat & Control High Blood Pressure

For immediate release: March 25, 2015


Karen Warmkessel

[email protected] | 410-328-8919

Initiative Funded by $130,000 Grant from Baltimore City Health Department

BALTIMORE – The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) has launched a program to help African-American men with undiagnosed hypertension get their blood pressure under control and learn how to lead a healthier lifestyle. The program is funded by a $130,000 grant from the Baltimore City Health Department and is for Baltimore City residents.  Once the men are identified, they will receive immediate counseling, a referral to a medical provider and counseling on healthy lifestyle choices. The grant has helped fund a full-time community health advocate to assist with outreach and work with local organizations to identify 250 previously undiagnosed men.

“Hypertension is a significant public health problem in the African-American community, and our goal is to not only help the men who participate in our program but also educate others about the risks of high blood pressure,” says Anne Williams, DNP, RN, Director of Community Health

Improvement at UMMC and the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus.

The program is part of UMMC’s ongoing efforts to improve community health and offer preventive health care that will not only help to keep people out of the hospital but also reduce costs to the health care system. The medical center and UMMC Midtown Campus provide numerous services to underserved populations, including health education and screenings. Preventing chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, is a top priority.

High blood pressure, which is defined as a reading of 140/90 or higher, can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack or other cardiovascular complications. The systolic number on the top measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts. The diastolic number on the bottom measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest between beats. Some of the more commonly used medications to treat hypertension include diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, alpha-blockers and calcium channel blockers. Ideally, blood pressure should be 120/80 or lower.

The medical center is partnering with the Union Baptist Church, American Heart Association’s Simple Cooking with Heart Kitchen, the Center for Urban Families, Chase Brexton Health Care and others to identify, refer, treat and educate the men with high blood pressure. 

The initiative will focus on identifying African-American men who have the disease but are not aware of it.  Then, the men will be referred to a local health care provider who will determine whether they need medication or other treatments to help lower their blood pressure. The program staff will also work with the men to help them quit smoking if needed and teach them about making healthier food choices. Participants will also be able to attend healthy cooking classes offered by the American Heart Association’s Simple Cooking with Heart Kitchen and tour grocery stores to learn how to read nutrition labels. They will also receive a free blood pressure monitor so that they can check their blood pressure at home.

UMMC hopes to find participants through health fairs, community-based organizations, the hospital’s community outreach van, or in faith-based centers. Men who come into the hospitals’ emergency departments or ambulatory clinics and are newly diagnosed with hypertension will be considered for the program.

According to the American Heart Association, more than 40 percent of African-Americans have hypertension, which typically develops earlier in life.  Approximately one in three, or 67 million, Americans have high blood pressure, and about half of them don’t have it under control.

“There aren’t any symptoms, which is why it is called the ‘silent killer,’” Williams says. “Because the person doesn’t feel sick, they tend to not think about what is actually going on. However, if left untreated, high blood pressure can do a lot of damage to your cardiovascular system, kidneys and eyes.”

Risk factors for developing hypertension include:

  • obesity
  • lack of  exercise
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • smoking
  • high-salt (sodium) diet
  • high cholesterol
  • chronic conditions, such diabetes or kidney disease

People who are older, have a family history of hypertension or are African-American are also at higher risk.

For more information about the program, please call 1-800-492-5538 or e-mail [email protected].

About the University of Maryland Medical Center

The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) is comprised of two hospitals in Baltimore: an 800-bed teaching hospital – the flagship institution of the 12-hospital University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) – and a 200-bed community teaching hospital, UMMC Midtown Campus. UMMC is a national and regional referral center for trauma, cancer care, neurocare, cardiac care, diabetes and endocrinology, women's and children's health and has one of the largest solid organ transplant programs in the country. All physicians on staff at the flagship hospital are faculty physicians of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. At UMMC Midtown Campus, faculty physicians work alongside community physicians to provide patients with the highest quality care. UMMC Midtown Campus was founded in 1881 and is located one mile away from the University Campus hospital.