Accurate Blood Pressure Readings

A 2016 study from the Journal of Clinical Hypertension found that in-office blood pressure measurements were inaccurate more often than not, either causing the misdiagnosis of hypertension (resulting in the inappropriate administration of medication) or causing patients at risk for stroke and heart events to go without necessary intervention or treatment.

The Utah Million Hearts Coalition recently announced a new website,,  which is designed to educate both patients and health care providers about the prevalence of inaccurate blood pressure measurements as well as correct measurement technique.

“Patients need to take their health into their own hands,” says Anni McKinnon, Utah Million Hearts Coalition member. “Learn how blood pressure should be measured, speak up when your blood pressure is not taken correctly, and assist your provider in getting an accurate measurement and subsequently an accurate diagnosis.” People can also help control their risks for cardiovascular disease by managing their weight, engaging in regular physical activity, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, and not using tobacco products.

Patients can take the following steps help ensure a correct blood pressure measurement:

  1. Thirty minutes prior to taking blood pressure: do not drink caffeine or alcohol, use tobacco products, exercise, or feel stressed or anxious.
  2. Sit and relax for five minutes before taking blood pressure.
  3. Sit up straight with both feet flat on the floor and your back supported.
  4. Cuff should be the proper size and placed on your bare arm or over thin clothing.
  5. Arm should be at heart level and supported.
  6. If your reading is high, your blood pressure should be taken two more times, waiting one minute between readings.

Even when blood pressure measuring technique is correct, some patients experience a ‘white-coat effect’ and exhibit high blood pressure in a medical office. “About 30% of patients with elevated in-office blood pressure turn out to have normal out-of-office measurements,” adds McKinnon, “so home monitoring is also important in some cases.”

In 2016, the Utah Million Hearts Coalition recognized 13 Utah medical clinics for their commitment to achieving excellence in blood pressure measurement and hypertension control.  Clinics that would like additional information in applying for the award can contact Audrie Frehner at 435-986-2567 or

The Utah Million Hearts Coalition is a community collaboration among Utah’s public health departments, local health care organizations, professional medical associations, and health-related nonprofit organizations. For more information about the coalition, visit

New Year’s Resolutions

By Kylaas Flanagan, SWUPHD Health Educator

Here are some familiar examples of New Year’s resolutions you’ll hear every year:
– I’m going to lose weight!
– I’m going to the gym every day!
– I’m not going to eat junk food!
– I’m going to quit smoking!
– I’m going to spend time with my family!
– I’m going to travel to new places!

Do you see a problem here? All of these are too vague – and too big – to accomplish with just willpower alone, and most New Year’s resolutions are built on a foundation of willpower instead of planning and preparation. The most effective way to accomplish your resolutions is through gradual, predictable, and incremental changes.

Here are two rules to use when making any change:
1) Create a S.M.A.R.T. goal
2) Keep your time frames short – only one or two weeks per goal

Rule #1: S.M.A.R.T. Goals
These goals have five characteristics. They are:
1) Specific
This means having a clear objective. You know what you have to do to accomplish the goal. “I’m going to spend time with my family” is a great idea, but at some point, you need to get down to the details.
2) Measurable
You need to have some type of outcome that can be measured. It doesn’t matter how big or small that measurement is, just that you can keep track of it.
3) Achievable
Ask yourself “Can I actually do this thing in this time frame?” you can set a goal of dead-lifting 800 pounds by tomorrow, but there’s really no way to accomplish that goal without the use of a forklift.
4) Realistic
Every goal can be too easy or too difficult. Find a middle ground that allows you to stretch your body and mind.
5) Time-Bound
At what point will you hold yourself accountable?

Let’s re-frame the New Year’s resolutions mentioned above:.
– By January 15th, I’m going to lose three pounds by eating from home and taking a 20 minute walk each day.
– I’m going to the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next two weeks.
– I’m going to rid my pantry of junk food this Saturday. On Sunday, I will plan my meals for next week.
– By the end of the week, I will contact and see what quit services would be best to help me quit tobacco use.
– By next Thursday, I will identify four activities that my family would enjoy which use less than $20.
– On Friday, I will spend 20 minutes with my spouse to find three places we’d like to go this year. On Saturday, I will spend one hour to calculate how to finance those trips.

Much better (and more do-able), right? You’ll I feel great when you check your first goal off the list, then making another one for the next two weeks.

Rule #2: Two Weeks or Less

Try to set your time frames for under two weeks. You can easily plan for those goals because two weeks from now isn’t a long span of time, unlike months or years. Having an overarching goal of “by the end of the year I want to fit into these pants without struggling” is great, but having 25 two-week goals to get there will definitely be more effective.

Another problem of the common New Year’s resolutions is that they are just that – common. I Why not spice it up a little bit? Consider making a competition between:
– Taking the stairs and taking the elevator
– Consecutive hours sitting and the number of five minute walks you take in a day
– Miles walked and hours in front of a screen
– Servings of fruits & vegetables and the number of sweets you consume
– Hours at the gym and hours on the couch
– Servings of sugary drinks versus servings of water

Keep track of your progress in a visual way. Write it down in a notebook, hang a chart on your fridge, or make a note on your phone; just make sure you’ll see it every day. Constant reminders that you are working on positive changes in your life are influential to your success.

The goal should be to improve. Try to increase the positive and decrease the negative even if the change seems small right now. You can easily move your intensity up over the course of several days.

Remember, keep it short! Start out with one of these for a week, then move up. Later on in the year, you’ll keep remembering that you did that one challenge, and it felt good. So why not do it again? Also, having a pro and a con to work on helps because you’re not “just” depriving yourself of the things that you want to do; you’re also substituting healthier options that make you feel better in the long run.

What do you do for New Year’s resolutions? Have you had success in previous years, or is this the year to buck the trend? If you try these ideas out, feel free to tell us how it went, along with any tips that might help others along their journey to a healthier year.

All the best!

E-Cigarette Use in Teens Increases 300%

Close up of a woman inhaling from an electronic cigarette

E-cigarettes now the most commonly abused drug among youth

WASHINGTON COUNTY, UT – Results of the 2015 Utah Prevention Needs Assessment youth survey have been released and show a 300% increase in teens using electronic cigarettes, surpassing alcohol as the most commonly abused drug among youth. From 2013 to 2015, the 30-day use rate of e-cigarettes among high school seniors increased from 3.6% to 14.3%, with about 31% of 12th graders reporting having experimented with the drug delivery device.
Kye Nordfelt, Health Promotions Director for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, is concerned about the impact of youth e-cigarette use in the community. “With 1 in 3 teens experimenting with e-cigarettes, this will have an effect on all of us,” he says. “These teens are in our schools, congregations, and families.”

“This 300% increase in electronic cigarette use is unprecedented,” says Logan Reid, Director of Prevention at Southwest Behavioral Health Center. “I don’t remember the data ever showing such a sharp rise in the use of one drug in such a short period of time. And the scariest part about this trend is that youth are smoking more than just nicotine through these devices.”

The main drug used in e-cigarettes is nicotine (a product of tobacco), which on its own is extremely addictive, often setting kids on a course for years of addiction.  Since e-cigarettes provide a convenient drug delivery system, local law enforcement officers are now finding youth and adults using marijuana and other liquefied drugs in these devices.  Currently, the contents and sale of e-cigarettes are largely unregulated and are not taxed as a tobacco product. E-cigarettes are attractive to youth by the very nature of their technology, are promoted as less harmful, and include a wide variety of appealing flavors They are easily accessed in areas with heavy teen traffic and have no ingredient labels.

  “Over the past 40 or so years we have witnessed a gradual decline in tobacco use,” Nordfelt states. “But now we are seeing nicotine usage skyrocket in the form of e-cigarettes. Increased consumption by teens is especially troubling, and we want to do all we can to help our community curb this trend.”

The health department is offering free e-cigarette presentations for parents and youth groups, covering the health risks of using these products and how to prevent further use by teens. Call Kye at 435-986-2593 to schedule a presentation.


Personal Stories:

Abigail Dickie, a senior at Snow Canyon High School and president of the Washington County Youth Coalition, says that kids talk about e-cigarettes all the time. “I have several friends who vape. They are really appealing to youth, and it’s scary how businesses market them toward us because there aren’t regulations on how they advertise, like there are on regular cigarettes.”  Orion Parker, who also lives in Washington County, witnessed how his use of e-cigarettes influenced his seven-year-old son. Orion explains, “My son saw me using the device and asked if he could try it.  I told him absolutely not and tried to make sure he didn’t see me using it after that.  One weekend, when I came home from a business trip, I picked up my son from my grandma’s, and she told me how my son had told her when he grows up he wants to smoke that cool e-cigarette just like his dad.”  Parker did not want his son addicted to nicotine; he subsequently quit cold turkey and had a long chat with his son about the harms of tobacco products.

Michelle (name has been changed), a Washington County resident, is a mother of four who is deeply involved in her busy kids’ lives, active in her faith, and like many parents, never thought her teenage son would use an addictive substance.  “I was unaware that my son was addicted to nicotine when he was arrested for having an electronic cigarette – it was so easy for him to hide his use from me, as the smell was often not present.  As he began using tobacco products, he totally changed, all of his values and friends changed.  I tried to protect him, but even at 14 he has had no problem getting e-cigarettes.” She continues,“The other thing I hadn’t realized is that e-cigarettes can be used to smoke other things like marijuana. My son had denied using any nicotine products and insisted that e-cigarettes were harmless, but I’ve since learned that isn’t the case.  Now there is a lack of trust between us and we’re worried about what he could be doing to himself.”

Salmonella Outbreak

Linked to cucumbers, 30 cases in Utah…



A salmonella outbreak linked to cucumbers imported from Mexico to the U.S. has sickened at least 285 people in 27 states. 30 cases are confirmed in Utah among 7 local health districts, resulting in seven hospitalizations.

Anyone who purchased cucumbers recently (between August 1st and September 3rd) is advised to throw them away (see this link for specific stores involved).

State agricultural and health departments are working with local and national agencies to investigate and end the spread of the outbreak.

Salmonella is a bacterial disease which causes fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Symptoms start between 12 and 72 hours after ingesting contaminated food or drinks and last from 4-7 days. Most people recover at home without treatment, but hospitalization may be required for dehydration and other complications. Children under 5, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems may experience more severe illness.

Ways to prevent salmonella infection include:

  • Wash surface area of produce to be eaten raw
  • Keep these foods separate from raw meat
  • Wash hands, work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after handling raw meat
  • Run non-porous cutting boards through the dishwasher

LINK: CDC information on the salmonella outbreak

Wildfires & Your Health

What impact does all that smoke have on your health?

Get live air quality data for Washington County (monitor loctaed in Hurricane) HERE

During the presence of moderate to heavy wildfire smoke, people with asthma and heart/lung diseases, children, and the elderly should:


  • Stay indoors as much as possible
  • Avoid prolonged or heavy exertion
  • Have prescribed medications and inhalers readily available
  • Avoid the use of swamp coolers (evaporative air conditioners) which can blow smoke into the house
  • Consider temporary relocation if smoke is causing illness
  • Seek medical attention as needed

Read more

Healthy Living Challenge Ends With Success

KANAB, UT – The Healthy Kane County Coalition recently awarded prizes to the finishers of the first-ever Kanab Healthy Living Challenge. Teams and individuals from Kanab, Orderville, Fredonia and Glendale competed for points, weight loss, inches lost, and body fat reduction. Prizes included $100 gift certificates to Duke’s Clothing and Knuckle Heads bike shop, along with CamelBaks, Fitbits, and 1-month passes to Best Friends Wellness & Fitness Center.

“The goal of the Healthy Living Challenge was to improve the overall health of local residents,” says Lexie Little, Community Outreach Specialist for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department. “We focused on nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and mental health. We had 150    participants join in, ranging from 5 to 87 years old. We saw people experience great success as they put forth the effort to follow the challenge guidelines.”

Participants tracked their steps, vegetable and fruit consumption, water intake, and sleep; and     were awarded points for each portion of the challenge completed. Weekly newsletters promoted healthy recipes and nearby trails. Overall totals were:


  • 326.4 pounds lost


  • 128.9 inches lost


  • 51% body fat lost


The Healthy Kane County Coalition would like to thank the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, Kane County Hospital, Kane County Recreation, Kane County Events & Volunteer Center, Southwest Prevention, USU Extension, BLM, Best Friends Wellness & Fitness Center, and Mountainland Rehabilitation for all their time, effort, and donations!