May is High Blood Pressure Education Month -- a reminder of how important it is to “know your numbers” to stay in good health. Wegmans Food Markets makes that easy with a stop by the pharmacy at any store. That’s where customers can find a state-of-the-art health station that lets them take their own vital statistics and track them over time, providing the kind of record doctors often ask patients to keep. The Lifeclinic 500 stations can measure blood pressure, pulse, weight, and calculate body mass index (BMI).
It’s fast, free, and private. It takes only about a minute to do a reading. Your personal statistics can be stored online, protected by password. (Wegmans can’t see any individual’s personal record.) On a home computer with an internet connection, you can even print out your record to bring to the doctor.
“It makes record keeping so much easier,” says Katie Niles, a pharmacist who is Wegmans’ clinical and wellness services coordinator. “You can also tell at a glance the meaning of your numbers – if you’re in a normal, healthy range, or if there’s something to discuss with your health provider.”
On average, more than 100,000 blood pressure readings a month are taken at the company’s 84 stores. Over 800 people each month create a new private account to store their personal data, and about 900 people a month save the data from their visit to the Lifeclinic 500 unit.
“Knowing your numbers is the first step in taking charge of your health – and if they show your blood pressure or weight is above where it should be, you can take action and set goals,” Niles says. “Some people find that watching their numbers keeps them on track, so they can make corrections as needed. But it’s also important to celebrate milestones, and knowing your numbers helps you see improvements as you go along.”
While creating a personal account and using the Lifeclinic is quick and easy, those who work at the Pharmacy are happy to help customers who need assistance with setting up an account or using the self-testing units, Niles says. Pharmacists will also take a blood pressure reading for individuals who can’t use the Lifeclinic 500 stations.
High blood pressure: A national health problem
One third of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, and only half of them have their condition under control, say the Centers for Disease Control. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, but if it isn’t treated, it can eventually cause serious problems such as stroke, heart failure, heart attack or kidney failure. Two thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. Extra pounds raise the risk of many health problems – including high blood pressure.
The good news is that high blood pressure is highly treatable with lifestyle changes and, if those aren’t enough, medication. A visit to the wegmans.com page on blood pressure is a great place to start. There, you’ll find blood pressure basics, frequently asked questions, recipes, and meal ideas to help you eat your way to lower blood pressure. There are also links to videos featuring Wegmans Nutritionist Jennifer Felice, RD who talks about effective ways to lower blood pressure through smart food choices, physical activity, and weight management in videos like “High Blood Pressure: The Silent Killer.”
Several years ago, Wegmans began encouraging employees to “know their numbers” as a way to help them enjoy healthier lives. The company installed the Lifeclinic self-testing stations in stores, offices, and manufacturing areas. A 2009 study of the Lifeclinic units published in Postgraduate Medicine showed that when these stations were in the workplace, significant numbers of employees used them to keep blood pressure and weight on track, thus improving their odds of staying healthy.
“Just as we think this technology can help our own people make informed choices that are good for their health and well-being, we think it can help customers too, so that’s why it’s available to everyone in our stores,” Niles says.