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Firefighters will continue checking blood pressure in new collaboration with St. Luke's

The Duluth Fire Department has teamed up with St. Luke's to help people keep track of their blood pressure. A new program announced this week will provide free blood pressure screening at the nine city fire stations. Mayor Gary Doty said city fir...

The Duluth Fire Department has teamed up with St. Luke's to help people keep track of their blood pressure.

  A new program announced this week will provide free blood pressure screening at the nine city fire stations.

Mayor Gary Doty said city firefighter's do much more than just fight fires. "They are all EMT's and first responders," he said. "They stabilize patients until the ambulance arrives."

Doty said in past years, the firefighters have done blood pressure checks as well. He said the department believes -- because of its community locations -- that fire stations are a logical place to do blood pressure checks.

"With the cooperation of St. Luke's, we will be doing them at all nine locations," said the mayor. "We're going to encourage people to come in and get their blood pressure checked. Not just at a certain time, but it will be a continuous program.

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"This isn't just a short-term thing, it is something we hope to continue long into the future."

"We're thrilled to be a partner," said Judy Blake, St. Luke's education coordinator. "Hypertension is a silent killer. The firefighters can maybe detect a problem a person didn't know they had."

She said the firefighters would hand out cards at the initial screening so people can track their blood pressure on a regular basis. "We're very pleased this will be done at no charge," Blake said. St. Luke's purchased enough equipment, spare parts and cuffs in various sizes for each fire station.

Duluth Fire Chief John Strongitharm said the idea for testing came from within the department. In addition, the department will be working to schedule regular screenings at the senior high-rises.

He said blood pressure checks at the various fire stations can start anytime after 7 a.m. and go to early evening. If firefighters are busy doing something else when a person stops by for screening, they will be asked to come back later.

The Minnesota Department of Health does not keep local statistics on hypertension, but according to the American Heart Association, one in four adults have high blood pressure. And because there are no symptoms, many people do not know they have it. Often called the "silent killer," uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack or kidney failure.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts in primary care, recommends blood pressure screening for all adults 18 and older.

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