Residents of Washington Heights, Harlem, and Inwood packed a room in the Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion last week to hear experts discuss CUMC’s latest research on hypertension. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a serious but often symptomless condition that affects one in three Americans and can lead to serious and often deadly health problems, including heart disease and stroke.
The event, presented by the Office of Government and Community Affairs, focused on advances in hypertension research, with presentations from three CUMC experts: J. Thomas Bigger, MD, Division of Cardiology and Department of Pharmacology; Carlos R. Lopez-Jimenez, MD, Division of Cardiology; and Daichi Shimbo, MD, Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health. Steven Shea, MD, senior vice dean, College of Physicians and Surgeons, and chief, Division of General Medicine introduced the evening, the second in a new series of community forums developed to present aspects of CUMC’s cutting-edge research to the local community. The inaugural forum in April focused on cancer; the tentative focus of the next one is dental issues.
“We developed these forums to share with our community some of the exciting and really important work we are doing here,” said Ross Frommer, CUMC’s vice president for government and community affairs and associate dean. Judging from the turnout and lively discussion, the community was as excited to hear from the CUMC experts as they were to present their findings. Many showed up as prepared to ask questions as the researchers were to answer them.
What lifestyle changes can someone make to control blood pressure? (The researchers recommended diet, exercise, and stress reduction, among others.) Why, asked one woman, might one sibling be hypertensive while the other is not? (More research is needed to answer questions like these, said Dr. Thomas Bigger.) Why does your blood pressure sometimes go up when you’re in the doctor’s office, asked another attendee.
“You’re setting me up,” said Dr. Daichi Shimbo, as the audience erupted in laughter. The question segued perfectly into Dr. Shimbo’s presentation on the phenomenon of “white-coat hypertension,” which is when a patient’s blood pressure is artificially high in the doctor’s office. Dr. Shimbo also discussed masked hypertension, which is when a hypertensive patient’s blood pressure reads as normal during a visit to the doctor but is otherwise dangerously high.
The audience listened attentively, with many taking notes. The crowd lingered for the reception afterwards, attendees lining up to speak one-on-one with the presenters. After two hours spent learning about hypertension, many felt they had gained something valuable either for their own health or for that of members of their community. Jean Morusma, a local resident who is working to lower his blood pressure through diet and exercise, was pleased with what he learned.
“I came here today to learn more about hypertension research and to make sure that what I have read about the disease is true,” said Mr. Morusma. “Now I can spread the information and tell people at church.”
Karla Cuenca contributed reporting.