Imagine meeting someone for the first time and then finding out that person suddenly died the same day. That’s what St. Louisan Byron Hayes experienced on February 1 of this year.
“The guy we just met, sat and talked to for a minute – he was dead by the morning,” Hayes said. “Come to find out, the young man had a heart attack while he was driving home. This young man wasn’t even 30 years old. To his family's knowledge, he had no prior heart ailments. As a result, we are centered on the early detection of hypertension―the ‘silent killer.’”
Hayes, who has a background as a basketball player and coach, developed the health initiative Hoopn’ for Hearts for men ages 30 and older (due to this age group’s high risk for hypertension). Hayes had been reading about men having their blood pressure taken in barbershops. This prompted him to bring blood pressure checks courtside as well.
The Hoopn’ for Hearts men’s summer and fall basketball league brings medical personnel to the basketball court to check the blood pressure of players and coaches before league games played at the O’Fallon Park YMCA, where they play on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
If a man has a high blood pressure reading or a previous diagnosis of hypertension, Hayes said it activates a separate four-month self-monitoring program using a take-home blood pressure monitor from the YMCA’s Evidence Based Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program with the American Heart Association.
That program, piloted in St. Louis and seven other cities in the U.S. (Atlanta, Georgia; Jacksonville, Florida; Lexington, Kentucky; Louisville, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; Nashville, Tennessee; and Tulsa, Oklahoma) is designed to help participants with hypertension lower their blood pressure through a program that combines blood pressure self-monitoring, nutrition education seminars and personalized support.
Hayes said the participant is assigned a YMCA trained Healthy Heart Ambassador with the focus on identifying and controlling the triggers for HBP by ensuring proper measuring techniques with individualized support and monthly nutrition education.
Hayes is also the founder of Moving Upward, a nonprofit organization that helps veterans and individuals transition into permanent housing.
“We are a homeless housing provider, primarily, but we also do wellness initiatives in the community to support our housing goals,” Hayes said. “We plan on doing our league summer and fall, so basically, we are going to see how the monitoring goes this session, and that will determine how often we need to do it.”
Find out more at about Hoopn for Hearts and other initiatives on social media and at movingupward-stl.org.