By Kim Lowman
Wellness Program Manager
Birthdays were always fun when I was a kid. Once a year I could ask for a “bigger ticket” item. As a kid, I wanted a banana seat bike with those high handlebars and streamers coming from the handlebar grips. As a teen, it was a FM clock radio. In my 20’s I wanted stirrup pants (a precursor to leggings, only uglier). So now that you know how old I am, my birthday wish list looked a lot different this year. I suggested sneakers, wrinkle cream that does not come from CVS and a Blood Pressure monitor. Yes. A Blood Pressure Monitor. I am just as surprised as you are!
The story goes like this…I have my annual routine medical appointments every March around my birthday. Appointment #1 discovered my BP was up pretty high. I thought “white coat syndrome.” I have had perfect BP readings my whole life. I work out 5-7 days a week with a heart rate monitor to make sure I am doing my best. I eat very healthy to the point where people tease me about it. I have no stress. I sleep well and track my sleep. I am a health fanatic. This is making no sense. The next day I asked the nurse in my building to take my BP. It was up even higher and pretty close to the danger zone. I called my PCP and they asked me to come in immediately. Off to Appointment #2 I go. My “white coat syndrome” was off the charts by the time I got there and my BP was dangerously high—194/100. Now the questions begin. “Do you have a headache?” “No.” “Are you under any stress?” “No.” “Do you drink a lot of alcohol?” “No- should I?” My doctor chuckled at that but the med student did not. Oops! “Are you active?” “Yes – do you want to see my phone where I track all my workouts?” “No- that’s OK I trust you.” “Do you eat well?” “Yes- you probably don’t want to see my food diary either, huh?” “No- not really.” By now, the doc and I are having a good time while we try to figure out the mystery. “Does high blood pressure run in your family?” BINGO—we have a winner! My father, my brothers—even my youngest son have high blood pressure. Ahhhh that could be it. “Anything else you notice?” “Sometimes I wake up with bags of water under my eyes…my mother says it’s from too much wine, but I don’t drink wine much anymore—maybe I should?” This was my second attempt to get his permission to add wine to my treatment plan! He didn’t buy it. “Or… it could be your kidneys. We’ll run tests for that and vitamin deficiencies,” he said. Then he told me he was putting me on BP meds. Immediately. The conversation that followed was basically me saying I didn’t want one with any side effects, thank you very much. I counted off on my fingers: no fatigue, no weight gain, no foggy brain, no insomnia. Doc agreed to give me one that may cause swollen ankles. Ok- deal! By this time, the medical student was writing furiously and his facial expression never changed. I secretly hope he works on his bedside manner because he missed out on a good time!
So here I am blogging away for months about how to stay healthy, reduce stress, eat a balanced diet, challenge yourself to exercise and to be your best. I missed a very important piece of overall wellness and health—KNOW your family history and make sure you make those yearly appointments! If I had not kept to my yearly schedule, I would have gone on in blissful ignorance not knowing I had this symptom-free medical condition. If you are already living your best healthy life, then do not forget those routine exams. If you are thinking about starting a healthy lifestyle – go for it, because for most people, a healthy lifestyle keeps diseases away or in control. At the very least, if you do face a medical condition, you will be ahead of the game because you won’t have to do all the things they tell you to do: eat healthier, lose weight, get active! As for me, I will gratefully continue my lifestyle and be all the more thankful I chose it, because I think it may have kept me from a more serious medical situation. I am also going to have a glass of wine. I hear it’s good for the heart!