Effort aims to empower local folks to reduce blood pressure

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UTICA — Michael Hyman was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 2014, and recently started using a self-monitoring blood pressure device. He began eating better and exercising more, and today, has a healthy blood pressure level with the help of the American Heart Association Self-Monitoring Blood Pressure Program.    

That self-monitoring blood pressure program is becoming more widely available — as the American Heart Association launched the Mohawk Valley Blood Pressure Initiative on Thursday at Johnson Park in Utica. 

Recently NYCM Insurance, The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, Utica National Group Foundation, and the Ronald and Sheila Cuccaro Family Fund donated a total of $260,000 to the American Heart Association to support the blood pressure initiative. From those funds, the American Heart Association is equipping several local medical practices, health clinics and community organizations in the Mohawk Valley with self-monitoring blood pressure devices, educational materials in multiple languages, training and support. 

“We are excited to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by reducing high blood pressure in the Mohawk Valley,” said Christine Kisiel, executive director of the American Heart Association in the Mohawk Valley. “We are honored to have the financial support of the participating organizations, and are glad that so many organizations are able to offer the self-monitoring blood pressure devices to their clients and patients.”

“This blood pressure program is the perfect example of the kind of community investment that NYCM is proud to make,” said Jeremy J. Robinson, senior vice-president of Customer Relations, NYCM Insurance. “Helping hundreds of people in the Mohawk Valley learn their blood pressure rates will prevent heart disease and stroke. We’ve been supporting the American Heart Association for 30 years, and look forward to taking this step with them in their mission to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.”

Community Foundation President and CEO Alicia Dicks said the foundation is pleased to support the effort, along with other community partners, to advance the American Heart Association’s efforts aimed at better health for all. “It’s a fact that the disadvantaged in our neighborhoods, especially people of color, suffer disproportionately from high blood pressure and heart disease, and the Community Foundation applauds this measure as a step toward a healthier, more equitable community,” Dicks said.

Attorney Bernard Turi, executive vice-president, general counsel, general auditor and chief risk officer for Utica National Group, said the foundation is proud to support the AHA’s efforts to help area residents become healthier.

“This great program is right in the ‘wheelhouse’ of the mission of the Utica National Group Foundation – to help those in need in our community live a better life,” said Turi. “On behalf of our company and our foundation, I want to thank the American Heart Association and Johnson Park for what they do, and for the opportunity to help make our area a better place to live and work.”

Sheila Cuccaro, of the Ronald and Sheila Cuccaro Family Fund, said her family history is one of heart disease, with her father and one brother having heart attacks at the age of 27.

“My brother passed away at the age of 54 while waiting for a transplant. But, research and science developed treatments and knowledge, and when my mother had a heart attack at age 67, medication kept her going until she had open heart surgery at the age of 94,” Cuccaro said. “She lived to be 101. Our granddaughter was born with a congenital heart defect and had open heart surgery when she was 10 days old. Last June, she graduated from Northwestern University.”

She said, “The work of the American Heart Association literally gave her life, and has helped many family members. We’re honored to support the Mohawk Valley Blood Pressure Initiative, and help prevent heart disease in other families.”

The self-monitoring blood pressure devices of the Mohawk Valley Blood Pressure Initiative are available at Johnson Park; Mosaic Health; Upstate Family Health Center; Mohawk Valley Health System and Bassett Health Network. 

“We’re glad to be part of the Mohawk Valley Blood Pressure Initiative,” said the Rev. Ursula Meier, chief operations officer at Johnson Park Center. “Information is power, and we look forward to having our clients know this important health factor.”

For information about the program, email heartofutica@heart.org or call 315-580-3956.

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