Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Learning I Have Hypertension

This past winter, I discovered I have developed high blood pressure. This came as a surprise for me, since I generally had always had blood pressure on the lower side of normal and since I don't really have the risk factors except for age and family history. 

For totally unrelated reasons, I had been taking a medicine for about two years that can be used to treat high blood pressure, and I went off of the medicine this past fall. Then, at a random gynecologist appointment, a nurse took my blood pressure at the beginning of the appointment and said, "That can't be right..." She went to my other arm and took it again. But that didn't help. 

My blood pressure was reading 164/110. 

When the doctor came in, she said that it wasn't rush-me-to-the-hospital high (although, I now realize it was close to that) and that this was just one point of data on one day. I needed to gather more data points and see my primary care physician. 

We got a blood pressure monitor for home so I could take my blood pressure at different times and gather more data points. Which I did, and I was averaging 159 over 103. Really not good. In fact, that put me quite firmly in Stage 2 of Hypertension.

I made an appointment with my doctor and brought in my data points. I talked with her about how I went off of this other medicine, and she explained that going off the medicine couldn't cause high blood pressure, however it could have been masking what otherwise would have been a steady rise in blood pressure. That is why my numbers were suddenly so high after going off of the medicine. 

So my primary care physician told me to see a cardiologist as soon as I could, and handed me a prescription which she said to start taking IMMEDIATELY.

As soon as I started on the medicine, my blood pressure lowered to average 131 over 84. I started being more careful of what I ate, and I continued my regular exercising. And I made an appointment with a cardiologist.

The cardiologist said that she thinks the hypertension is because of my family history and that I'm "at an age" when this can kick in. Sigh... 40s... 

She believes it is just "garden variety" hypertension that I can control with the low dose of medicine I had started, diet, and exercise. Luckily, I don't have any damage to my heart because we caught it early enough. She told me to take my blood pressure twice a day and use an app to track it. 

And she handed me a printout with her recommended diet and forbidden foods (so many forbidden foods!!!), although she let me know that I had a little more leeway than say a person recovering from a heart attack. She said to lower my sodium intake and eat potassium-rich foods. 

And then, of course, I did research to figure out what I could eat and to find recipes. I highly recommend the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet/eating plan, and I heavily leaned on the NHLBI website and even printed out copies of the information linked in the Getting Started with Dash Eating Plan section for myself and my dad (from whom I get the family history of hypertension).

So I've reduced my intake of sodium, sugar, red meat, non-whole grain carbs, and overall calories. I am pretty much eating vegetables, beans, some whole wheat grains, plain yogurt with fruit, fish, and chicken for every meal. Basically, I cook my own meals while Londo makes dinner for him and the kids, because there is no chance the kids are going to eat a plate of veggies and beans. And I still can enjoy some chips or candy on a rare occasion. 

On the bright side, I lost 20 pounds since I started this diet and my blood pressure is back in the normal range. And I discovered that I love beans! 

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Learning I Have Hypertension

This past winter, I discovered I have developed high blood pressure. This came as a surprise for me, since I generally had always had blood ...