Small Steps for Heart Health

Ana Ruiz, PA-C, MHA, Chief Executive Officer and Karla Rugamas PA-C, MCHS, Chief Operating Officer,Ana Ruiz, PA-C, MHA, Chief Executive Officer and Karla Rugamas PA-C, MCHS, Chief Operating Officer, offer some tips for empowering patients with information on preventing hypertension. They are the co-founders of Vida Mobile Clinic, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing health care access to underserved individuals and mentoring future health care providers. Vida Mobile Clinic serves the health care needs of patients in the San Fernando Valley in California.

Patients are accustomed to getting their blood pressure checked at every visit, but few are aware of what the target range should be or how simple prevention measures can lower their risk of cardiovascular disease. “We advocate and empower patients with the knowledge they need to effectively manage their blood pressure at every visit,” says Ruiz.

Ruiz and Rugamas grew up in medically underserved communities and learned first-hand how barriers to accessing preventive and basic care can have devastating outcomes. Many patients are unaware they have hypertension, even if they have had regular health visits. Reviewing and discussing a patient’s goal blood pressure against the current blood pressure at every visit is important. “We encourage patients to track their blood pressure at home and monitor their progress. We also educate on healthy diet and daily physical activity,” says Rugamas.

Rugamas advises keeping medication regimens simple and straightforward so patients will more likely adhere to treatment. She also checks in with patients on whether they are taking their medications and discusses barriers they may be having.

Both Ruiz and Rugamas precept students at their clinic and teach them skills to use when counseling patients on healthy habits. They advise students to use non-judgmental, two-way communication which is the most effective. Additionally, with positive reinforcement, patients are more motivated to make small changes and schedule follow-up visits.

“The end goal is reducing the incidence of preventable heart attacks and strokes, for our patients, this is lifesaving,” says Ruiz.

Here are some things all patients can do to help prevent hypertension, maintain healthy blood pressure, and promote overall heart health:

  1. Talk to your PA or other health care provider about your target blood pressure range.
  2. Track your blood pressure at home.
  3. Incorporate a healthy diet into your daily routine.
  4. Engage in regular physical activity.
  5. Follow medication regimens.


Visit the American Heart Association for more information on high blood pressure.