Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in New York City, a city Health and Hospitals Corporation hospital is actively working to fight hypertension among its patients. NY1's Health reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.
Just nine months ago, Elizabeth Sanchez's blood pressure was consistently high -- around 160 over 90.
"My heart was killing me. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't walk, I couldn't do anything," Sanchez says.
She was referred to Harlem Hospital's "Treat To Target" program, which closely monitors patients with hypertension.
After an initial visit with their physician, nurses guide patients through lifestyle changes, check their blood pressure during bimonthly appointments, touch base with them when they are no-shows and give them the tools to monitor their blood pressure at home.
It was the additional accountability Sanchez needed.
"I be honest to you I wasn't taking care about it," Sanchez says. "I need these people behind me, pushing me, calling me, that communication between them and me."
Now Sanchez's blood pressure is back to a normal 120 over 80. Doris Amalu, one of the six blood pressure clinic nurses, says the results so far are promising.
In May 2012, about 33 percent of their 800 patients were properly monitoring their blood pressure and taking their medications. Now, 46 percent of their patients are on board.
"Their blood pressure is quite under control. I feel happy because I know that we are achieving our goal," Amalu says
The program also gets patients in and out of the hospital faster, according to Amalu.
"It literally improves access. If you're a regular busy respected clinician, it's going to be a wait time, a couple of weeks, a month," says Dr. Matthews Hurley, a Harlem Hospital primary care physician.
The goal is to eventually expand the blood pressure clinic program to all HHC hospitals and use its methods to address other chronic illnesses.
"We are actually doing it for our diabetics too," Hurley says.
It is all a part of the national shift in focus to preventative care.
"The primary goal is to get the blood pressure under control. Secondary, hopefully will be less heart failure, less kidney failure, less admissions," Hurley says.
Harlem Hospital is one of seven HHC facilities with a "Treat To Target" program.