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It was at the beginning of October that I went to see my GP. I was concerned that when I try to run for more than a minute I have enormous problems taking in enough oxygen and start wheezing. Apart from the fact it can take me five minutes to recover from running for the bus, let alone formal exercising, it put me off any cardiovascular exercise on the basis that I can’t do it.

She listened and took my blood pressure, which I wasn’t expecting. I’d had borderline problem blood pressure a few years prior, but not enough to really affect me or warrant treatment. This time however it was high. She took it three times just to make sure it wasn’t a malfunction. I went away and spent the following fortnight popping in to the surgery to have my blood pressure taken at random times. It came out high and higher (179/100 was the highest).

I’ve spent one month on a low dosage of medication and have now doubled the dosage to help bring it down. But it’s scary. I can feel my blood pounding at times, whether it’s real or perceived. It worries me. I feel as if my body, which has done me so well so far, is finally beginning to break down. Blood and glucose tests show that my risk of heart incident is at 7% so not high but I suddenly feel vulnerable.

Fixed causes that affect me are early menopause about which I can do nothing. My mother had/has high blood pressure too, but no history of heart issues in my family that I’m aware of.

As to lifestyle factors, I quit smoking 8 years ago and I quit adding salt to food almost entirely two or three years ago when 1son said something that made me stop after a lifetime of over-salting food. I’ve reduced my alcohol intake to under 21 units a week, which is a start. I’d love to quit stress, overeating and being fat but those are easier said than done.

I’m trying to increase my exercise which is what led me to the GP in the first place. I have become sedentary over the last two years when I stopped having to do the school run after eighteen years of it. I thought I could take a break without being punished. Clearly I was wrong.

Eating more fruit and vegetables is something I’m not particularly concentrating on as I’m really trying (and failing) to focus on cooking more and eating better generally.

Another recommendation is 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week. I’m still trying to achieve 20 minutes 3-4 times a week.

One of the troubles is that these factors aren’t given any weighting. If I knew that early menopause was 80% behind high blood pressure then the other factors wouldn’t matter so much. Equally which of the lifestyle factors affects it most? If it’s stress, then there’s little I can do about it. Feeling that your body is vulnerable, that it isn’t safe just adds to the stress, causing a little vicious circle.

I find it interesting that I’ve just been able to halve my alcohol intake overnight without trying, mainly by slowing down how fast I drink when I’m in a pub and the fact that my local has decent tea so I can have a cup of tea instead. I’d already more or less stopped drinking at home. I can’t change my eating habits quite that easily and that is something I really need to explore.

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