I always had perfect blood pressure. Even during my two pregnancies when I gained a rather healthy amount of baby weight, it was always perfect. I can still remember the nurse commenting about it after all these years. When I say perfect, I mean like 112/78 because that was my blood pressure back in April while it was still perfect. I consider myself relatively healthy, especially in the last many months. Since turning 40 last November I made it a priority to take care of myself and my body. I got my first mammogram, we purchased a treadmill, and I began focusing on eating well (most of the time) and exercising regularly. In many ways, I was feeling more healthy than I ever had, regardless of the number on the scale. Last spring, thanks to my ambitious exercise routine, I suffered an injury to my achilles tendon. I ignored it initially, but then decided I should probably be seen to be sure it wasn’t something more serious. What probably struck me more than anything else during that office visit to my doctor was when the medical assistant stated my blood pressure reading. It was high. I honestly thought she must not have done it correctly, that maybe she was new and not sure how to perform the task. I brushed it off, though, because my blood pressure was perfect and I was healthy and exercising and surely she made a mistake. A couple of months after my injury I had a bit of a kitchen accident and ummm, the blade of my food processor attacked my finger and I had to make a trip to the emergency room of my local hospital. The triage nurse took my vital signs and my blood pressure was high, but in this case that’s pretty typical after suffering a trauma. I mean, I was kind of bleeding a little bit. Okay, I was bleeding a lot and ended up needing three sutures. I’m clearly not meant to have nice kitchen gadgets, at least not ones with sharp blades. So again, no cause for concern. I have perfect blood pressure. The E.R. doctor instructed me to follow up with my primary care physician to have the sutures removed in about seven to ten days. As usual, the medical assistant took my blood pressure and when she said it aloud I was annoyed. Obviously this medical staff needs to practice their skills at taking a patient’s blood pressure. I’ve personally done that job, it’s really not that difficult. When my doctor came into the exam room I made a point of saying something to her and I may have even suggested incompetence in the medical assistant. She wasn’t overly concerned since I’ve mostly had perfect blood pressure and that maybe I should just monitor it for a bit. She gave me a handy little card so I could keep track of my blood pressure over a short period of time. She said I could come into the office any time for a free check or that I could just use the machine at my local grocery or drug store. I was certain my log would take a turn back toward perfect and this would all have been a temporary problem and that the office staff would get a special training in doing blood pressure checks.
Here’s the thing….I didn’t see a huge improvement after the first few times I sat at the machine in my local grocery store. I’ll admit, I was beginning to get a bit concerned so I did a little research online, which is always fun and frightening and not always the best idea, regarding ways to lower blood pressure and the possible health risks involved with hypertension(the clinical term for high blood pressure). It turns out reading about potential health risks with high blood pressure will give you more stress, which isn’t good for your blood pressure.
In all seriousness, high blood pressure can be very dangerous and we don’t always show symptoms when begins to rise, like in my case. As a matter of fact, probably just the opposite. I’ve been fit and active and eating healthy. I don’t smoke, I’m not horribly overweight, and my drink of choice is red wine. I had no reason to be concerned about my blood pressure. I decided to look more closely at my diet. With anything health related, I always look at what I eat first, as that’s often where the problem lies. I’m very anti-medication (I realize it’s necessary in some cases), so I was determined to get control of my blood pressure on my own. My biggest weakness? Sodium. I love salt. I love salty food, especially cheese. I started to read labels. I hate reading labels. I’ve never been a fan of diets, I’m a fan of changing your lifestyle and exercising more often. I was surprised at the amount of sodium in some of my favorite foods, not to mention the amount in my salt shaker. I got diligent about writing down my sodium numbers and marched myself to that machine at the grocery store and I saw I little improvement with my blood pressure numbers. Phew. Maybe this was all I needed to adjust, maybe I just needed to train my body to appreciate flavor in food without using salt to enhance it. I was pleased to find that swiss cheese is very low in sodium and that Triscuits come in a lightly-salted version, as these two things together are one of my favorite snacks. I’ve switched back to only eating almond butter instead of peanut butter and I’m
forcing encouraging myself to eat more oatmeal even though it’s one of those healthy things that I wish I loved more because I know it’s good for me on so many levels, but I just don’t. Overall, it’s way better for my health in the long term to be watching my sodium intake and if it can help to improve my blood pressure, it will totally be worth it. My stress level is high lately, so that didn’t help with my last two visits to that chair at the grocery store, but I’m determined to take more deep breaths and maybe add yoga to my fitness routine (another healthy thing that I’m just not a huge fan of), so I can hopefully improve my blood pressure without the help of some sort of pill.
Please get your blood pressure checked. Please know your blood pressure and monitor it regularly so if it suddenly jumps without any obvious explanation, you can talk to your doctor. Your family deserves to have a healthy version of you.