`Love Your Heart Day’ offers free blood pressure checkups on Valentine’s Day

The County of San Diego will present “Love Your Heart Day,” a crucial first step towards preventing heart disease, on Valentine’s Day, Tuesday, Feb. 14.

This one-day event will feature free blood pressure checkups in an effort to fight heart disease and empower participants to take charge of their health. Officials expect about 20,000 people will receive free blood pressure checks at 170 screening sites throughout the region, including the Mexican communities of Tijuana, Tecate and Rosarito, officials said.

A map of screening locations can be found at http://www.livewellsd.org/love-your-heart/.

Locations in the East County include public libraries in La Mesa, El Cajon, Santee, Lakeside, Spring Valley and Lemon Grove, along with East County Family YMCA facilities.

This year’s sixth annual “Love Your Heart Day” is supported by several local health-oriented community organizations, including Champions for Health, a local nonprofit formerly known as the San Diego County Medical Society Foundation. About 30 medical volunteers representing Champions of Health will provide free blood pressure screenings to the public at about 50 different locations, including retail stores, businesses and community centers, throughout the day on Feb. 14. In addition to the free screening, participants will receive information that includes strategies for heart health and a listing of community resources should they need a medical provider that day or in the future.

“Love Your Heart Day will activate residents to know their numbers and take charge of their own heart health,” said Barbara Mandel, CEO of Champions for Health. “Many people are unaware that high blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. The good news is that there are many ways to lower your blood pressure. Knowing your numbers is the first step toward hitting your blood pressure target.”

Heart disease is the second-leading cause of death in San Diego, officials said. An estimated 4,500 people living in the San Diego region die of heart disease every year.

“Love Your Heart Day” is a program of the County of San Diego’s Live Well San Diego initiative. Launched in 2010, Live Well San Diego is a cutting-edge, innovative countywide initiative focusing on promoting healthy lifestyles and safer communities throughout San Diego County. The goal of Live Well San Diego is to empower residents to take positive actions for their own health, safety and well being through community involvement.

Founded in 2005, Champions for Health offers several health improvement and prevention initiatives that improve community health and wellness, access to care for all and support for physicians through engaged volunteerism. Its flagship program, Project Access San Diego, links volunteer specialist doctors with uninsured people who need healthcare services and cannot afford specialty surgeries. Other Champions for Health programs include free screenings for breast cancer, colorectal cancer and high blood pressure, along with flu immunizations, a speakers bureau and scholarships for medical students and residents planning to care for the medically underserved. For more information, visit www.ChampionsForHealth.org.