Life in the Hypertensive Zone

by Nancy Colasurdo on July 10, 2013

I hate writing about health. I glaze over when people talk about it regularly. I am bored to tears when I’m fixated on my own health issues. I don’t seek out articles about it. I guess you could say when it comes to this topic I learn about things on a need-to-know basis.

Courtesy of freeimages.co.uk

All that said, I have been posting a bit more on the topic of health in the last year or so. People other than me tend to respond favorably to these pieces; they like the sharing. Plus, I have vowed to be pretty much split-open vulnerable in my writing, more so than ever before, and this has been a major time suck the last week.

So let’s talk high blood pressure.

To summarize, I learned I was hypertensive in April 2012 while getting pre-op testing for arthroscopic surgery on my knee. Bring it down, I was told, or no surgery. I got on meds, pronto, and they helped, but even the day of the surgery the anesthesiologist was freaked because I was on the borderline. (That’s relaxing for the patient to hear, by the way).

Since then I’ve blown through four different prescription meds. Dark moods, leaden limbs, etc. On to the next.

I figured I’d found my answer with this diuretic concoction (I’m purposely not naming names on here because I don’t want to get bogged down in debating drugs), but since starting it last September I’ve had an increasing problem with throbbing pain in my legs, mild to severe joint stiffness (walking across a room is challenging), cramps in my feet and overall achiness. When I walk or exercise it’s like I’m working against myself. Hard to explain, but that’s close.

I’ve written about this here before, but each time I wind up ending the post with some resolution. In other words, I keep thinking I’ve figured out it’s some other thing or I’ve found the answer (freakin’ pineapple juice, drinking more water, challenging myself more at the gym, etc.) because it goes away for a day or so and returns.

But last week on the 4th of July I went to sit on the ground and couldn’t physically do it. My knees stiffened on the way down. Me, who works out four days a week and walks everywhere (I don’t own a car). Seriously?

The next morning I emailed my doctor. I was firm. Time to go off this drug. It is either causing these problems or there is something else very wrong. We need to conduct an experiment. I know you like my blood pressure in this “sweet spot” but my quality of life is getting progressively worse. I’m an active 51-year-old.

She agreed. Go off the meds, she said, and monitor your blood pressure every other day and then come see me in two weeks. Fabulous.

So here’s where I am. This is Day 6 off the meds. I feel amazing. My workouts feel less leaden. I’ve done the elliptical three of the last five days, something I haven’t been able to do in over a year. Euphoric doesn’t begin to cover it.

Except, except, except … my blood pressure is running high again. Monday it was pretty high. Today it was markedly better but still high. This is going to be a challenge. I am seeing it as an opportunity to take my life up a few notches in every way. It feels like I have been emotionally preparing myself for this. Hard to explain, but true.

The plain truth is that since being diagnosed I’ve never given myself a chance to bring it down naturally with lifestyle changes. I am called to do that now. Out the window – olives (*weeping*), full-sour pickles, salami (say it isn’t so), the few processed items I still consume.

This morning I went to Panera and asked my favorite employee for the “binder” of nutrition info on their products. I went through it and gasped. So my whole grain bagel (I usually eat just half, but slathered with peanut butter) has 400 milligrams of sodium? Are you screwing with me?

Great reality check. I won’t go extreme, but I will be creative about doing this in a way that doesn’t make me feel deprived. That’s the only way it works for me. Exercise will now be easier and more appealing because I won’t have to work through pain, plus I can hopefully get back to walking long distances again. That comes naturally and I enjoy it.

Simultaneously, meditation becomes more a priority and not a luxury. Politics, formerly a favorite ‘sport’ of mine, is getting relegated to passing interest. I’ll stay informed and vote my conscience. I’m pulling out and widening my perspective to seeing us as humanity with lots in common and lots of differences. Period.

I’m in the process of transforming my professional life and staying open to all the possibilities before me. It’s invigorating. In the last few weeks I’ve had coffee with an aspiring life coach, sat down with a homeless man to listen to his story just because, run into a former life coaching client who’s now thriving as a writer of erotica, visited The Cloisters to revel in the feeling of ancient art, and met with an artist to help me realize a part of my new venture.

A few days ago I struck up a conversation with a stranger and wound up sitting and talking to her for over an hour. We talked about religion mostly and she suggested if I wasn’t acquainted with Paul’s writings in the Bible I might check them out. She spoke of how driven he was and how he spoke from an enlightened place and that reminded her of me (*blush*).

When I mentioned this exchange to my friend Kathi she offered to let me borrow a few books. I am well into the first, an old Westminster guide to the Bible called “Light for the Gentiles, Paul and the Growing Church” by Leland Jamison. I always see moments like these as calls to act or at the very least as a breadcrumb to lead me to the next one. My spiritual core is more a swirling combination of various disciplines and teachings than any one, so I welcome more information or even a revisiting of what I studied a long, long time ago and have forgotten. This is one of several lines that gave me pause in Jamison’s book:

Gentile pagans were by no means godless; on the contrary, they worshiped gods many and lords many, in quest of a spiritual salvation that would transcend the insecurity and frustration of the present world.

How timeless.

See how I took this post to something that interests me far more than a discussion of health? I think ultimately it is all of this – the interactions, the being in the world, the learning, the openness, the mindfulness – that will make me the best and healthiest person I can be.

Stay tuned. There will be more.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Maggie Mae July 12, 2013 at 2:27 pm

You might want to check out what Dr. Christaine Northrup has to say about hypertension on her website.

http://www.drnorthrup.com/womenshealth/healthcenter/topic_details.php?topic_id=93

Nancy Colasurdo July 15, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Thanks so much, Maggie. I’ll give it a read.

Nancy

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