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One day you wake up with normal blood pressure. The next day, through no fault of your own, you are considered to have high blood pressure.

It’s enough to raise your blood pressure.

In November the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association announced new guidelines for evaluating blood pressure. By drafting new guidelines, millions more Americans suddenly became designated as stage 1 hypertensive.

The guideline had been that a systolic — the number on top — of 130 was considered elevated but normal. Now a systolic number of 130 to 139 is considered stage 1 hypertension. The designation means the person is statistically at higher risk of a cardiovascular event or death.

A systolic number of 140 and higher is considered stage 2. Before the new classifications, 140 was stage 1.

The changes of classifications affected more than 31 million Americans.

One day you are rolling along with a slightly elevated 130 systolic and the next you are a walking health risk at the same number.

Of course, we all know not to smoke, to exercise regularly and to consume less salt to control our risk.

Genesis Philanthropy and its partners, including Naturally Slim and the Quad-City Times, have another suggestion for controlling your risk of conditions related to hypertension.

Genesis is expanding access to a health program with proven health and weight loss results for residents of the region.

Free health screenings are available to individuals who want to reduce their risk for chronic disease and possibly lose weight. If clinically qualified, individuals will be able to participate in a free 10-week program to reduce the risk factors of Metabolic Syndrome. Preference for scholarships to the program is given to those at highest physical risk and lowest income.

Metabolic Syndrome is a potentially dangerous cluster of five risk factors. When three or more of five risk factors are present, the risks of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease all increase.

The Genesis Philanthropy Metabolic Syndrome Initiative will be accepting online applications from individuals living in the Genesis service area, including areas served by Genesis Medical Center, Aledo and Genesis Medical Center, DeWitt, starting this month. The DeWitt Community Hospital Foundation and the Mercer Foundation for Health provide support to the initiative.

The support will allow Genesis Philanthropy to double the number of scholarship recipients for the next session starting the week of Feb. 12.

If you aren’t qualified for a scholarship, Naturally Slim is available from the Genesis Center for Weight Management.

Anyone interested in participating in the free program can register online beginning January 8 at

The Metabolic Syndrome Initiative was first introduced to the region by Genesis in 2014. Since then, participants who had elevated Metabolic Syndrome risk before the program have experienced a 36 percent reduction in their risk factors after the 10-week intervention. Participants in all the groups have lost an average of 13.9 pounds per person by the end of the 10-week program.

The 10-week Naturally Slim program has been offered to employees of Genesis Health System since 2009. Since 2009, 57 percent of the Genesis employees who were at risk for Metabolic Syndrome no longer had the condition because of healthy lifestyle techniques taught by the Naturally Slim classes.

Hundreds of Genesis Health System employees have improved their health while helping stabilize health insurance costs through their use of the Naturally Slim  program. Genesis Health System and its employees have saved more than $100 million in healthcare and health insurance costs since first implementing the program in 2009.

To learn more about the program, call (563) 421-6865 or (563) 421-3871.

Craig Cooper is a senior communications specialist with the Genesis Health System.