Pax health clinic offers class in managing high blood pressure

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Nicole Sanner, with Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River, is offering monthly virtual blood pressure classes where participants will learn information to help them manage their condition.

Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River (NHCPR) introduced their first monthly High Blood Pressure Class March 25 where participants learned practical, nutritional and behavioral information to help them manage their condition.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is consistently too high. If untreated, it can lead to heart attack, kidney disease, stroke, heart failure, vision loss, peripheral artery disease, and more.

“The idea for a virtual high blood pressure class was modeled after the success of the Diabetes/Pre-Diabetes Class offered at the clinic,” said Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Nicole Sanner, who co-teaches the class with the clinic’s Behavioral Health Consultant Madeline Todd. “We find that patients really enjoy connecting with and learning from a team of clinicians during a group session, which is what we’re offering in this class.”

Participants will learn lifestyle modifications in a virtual classroom with other people who also have high blood pressure, Sanner noted, and the goal is that patients will not only learn from the experts, but also from the shared experiences of others.

“Nutrition topics covered in class include key nutrients involved in blood pressure management, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, fats, sugars, and most importantly, how this translates to the food we eat,” she added. “Other information we go over is how to accurately check your blood pressure, what to do if you struggle to exercise or remember to take your medications as prescribed, the importance of smoking cessation, and stress management techniques.”

The instructors shared educational videos, slides, and images in addition to verbal instruction, and participants were able to ask questions.

“It catered to the unique and varying learning style of adults,” Sanner said. “Having real-time participant/instructor interaction is valuable for making sure information is clearly communicated.”

Sanner and Todd also provided participants with handouts and additional resources, including information from the American Heart Association, and reinforced the importance of continuing to work with a primary care manager to achieve optimal blood pressure control.

In her role at NHCPR, Sanner is part of the Medical Home Model and works with active-duty service members and beneficiaries enrolled at the clinic on preventing and managing health issues using food and nutrition.

“I provide education and individualized nutrition plans for people who have conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, food allergies, gastrointestinal problems, and altered growth — which is usually specific to the pediatric population,“ she explained. “I also work with people who have wellness goals related to things like fitness, pregnancy, and healthy aging.”

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Sanner has completed course work from an accredited university, completed a supervised practice program, passed a national exam, maintains continuing education requirements, and follows a strict code of ethics.

“I’ve been in practice as an RDN for 12 years and am trained in providing medical nutrition therapy to people across the lifespan,” she said. “High blood pressure, when undetected or uncontrolled, can lead to serious health conditions. Following a healthy lifestyle can help manage and prevent it.”

The next High Blood Pressure Class is scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon, April 15, and is open to enrollees of NHCPR free of charge; no referral needed. People interested in participating should contact their provider through TRICARE Online Secure Message to get more information about scheduling.