Blood Pressure Demands the 3 C's: The Wards

Profile of a family working together to fight high blood pressure.




Vernon Ward III, 23, will soon graduate with a major in neuroscience from University of California-Riverside. He heard about Check. Change. Control. through his fraternity and signed up to be a mentor for several people, including his grandparents, Hannah and Vernon Ward Sr., 71 and 74. Vernon Sr., a retired teacher and carpenter, was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 1980. Hannah has had several blood pressure events in the past decade that landed her in the hospital. Hannah and Vernon Sr. raised their grandson in San Bernardino, California, after his father, a policeman, was disabled by a traumatic brain injury. They’re also their son’s caregivers.

Young Vernon was attracted to the Check. Change. Control. program because he wanted to help his family and because "I wanted to be part of something big," he said. He knew his grandparents had wrestled with high blood pressure for years. He saw mentoring as good training for his future interacting with patients. "My plan is to work as an EMT and then a nurse anesthetist," he said, "so this was good practice talking with people about personal things."

Vernon III taught his grandparents breathing exercises to help them relax. He showed Hannah how to input her daily readings into the computer. "My grandfather is more old school and likes to keep his numbers on paper," Vernon said. Hannah and Vernon Sr. went to a class about blood pressure and cholesterol at Kaiser Permanente, and talked to their grandson about diet and health articles.

"He was very good about calling and talking to us about what we were doing," Hannah said. "It reminds you to keep check on yourself. You know, you start something with good intentions, but it can be hard to follow through. When you have someone to coach you, you do better."

The calls several times a week gave the younger Vernon the opportunity to educate his grandparents about their condition and reinforce positive behavior. He was also able to draw connections between different behaviors and increased blood pressure.

Hannah and Vernon Sr. have doctor-approved blood pressure cuffs and check their blood pressure twice a day. Their readings have consistently come down over the four months they have been in the program and are now in the normal range. Plus they’ve had the added bonus of getting to talk to their grandson. "I like that he follows the changes he suggests for us. He’s very convincing and he lives it," Hannah said. "For instance, we mapped all the places where he could get healthy food near campus."

Knowing his family history with high blood pressure, Vernon III is proactively practicing what he preaches. He understands this battle goes on and on. "Yes, my grandparents reached their goals," Vernon said, "but it never stops, even if you reach your goals, because the minute you stop it comes back."

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