Thursday, April 14th, 2011
Dear diary, it’s been too long! So much has happened since my last entry back in October and it’s a bit complicated to explain. Maintaining a healthy body can be a difficult balancing act. After a complete physical, including an artery scan and blood vessel flexibility test, my doctor found anomalies that pointed to elevated blood pressure – some thickening in the neck arteries and small blood vessels that tested “abnormal”. (Interestingly, I have since read a Science Daily article that explained that vegans and strict vegetarians are at risk for hardened arteries if they don’t get enough of the vitamins and nutrients that can prevent it, namely B12 and Omega 3′s.) My cholesterol levels weren’t an issue, but my vegetarian diet, which didn’t include eggs or milk, clearly needed improvement. I was very low in vitamins B12 and D. At that point, I was feeling pretty lousy from the lack of B12 – nervous, unfocused, plagued with painful and annoying sores on my tongue, constantly sick with colds and a wicked throat ailment that delayed one of my doctor visits. Before this, I was hardly ever sick. I was glad there was a reason and a solution for my ill health, and the vitamin D deficiency actually gave me hope. I had just read about a study linking low vitamin D to high blood pressure. I told my doctor cheerfully and he was full of genuine sympathy. “Maybe we’ll get lucky,” he said.
Because I’m fairly young and my blood pressure readings taken in the doctor’s office tend to hover in the pre-hypertension to stage 1 range, he was inclined to put me on medication to bring it down right away, but I didn’t want that. I convinced him to let me monitor myself morning and night and follow a regular exercise routine – a 2 mile walk a day at least 5 days a week. He knew the walking would be good for my heart, but he wasn’t sure it would help my blood pressure that much. Again, I had read about another study that showed that exercise can lower blood pressure in the short term as well as the long term. Plus exercise is a great stress reliever. Although I accept that my high blood pressure is at least partly hereditary, I know stress has something to do with it. After 2 weeks of walking, the doctor could see that my blood pressure numbers were dropping. He knew how determined I was, so he agreed to give me a few months to see what exercise, relaxation, and vitamin D could do.
So that’s what I’ve been up to – doctoring (and slowly paying off the doctor bill), taking my vitamins, exercising like crazy, working hard, and attempting to de-stress. There have been setbacks. The B12 didn’t kick in until I took a potent liquid version. And I lost a little too much body fat from walking, which left me exhausted and threw my hormones out of whack. I’m back in the swing now, eating sockeye salmon, drinking milk, eating eggs, and everything under the sun reputed to lower blood pressure – oranges, orange juice, blueberries, strawberries, walnuts, dark chocolate, green tea.
I have days when my blood pressure gets me down, when I don’t want to test myself. The beeping sound when the test begins makes me nervous and I hate it when the cuff squeezes my arm, sometimes so tight that it leaves a red mark. Even if I have 8 out of 10 good blood pressure readings, the perfectionist in me seizes on the higher ones (even when they aren’t that high at all). I wonder what I did wrong.
Sometimes this whole health regimen overwhelms me. I’ve started practicing a relaxing breathing technique described by Dr. Andrew Weil. It seems to be helping, but I know I have more to do. In the last few months, I’ve read about so many activities that are said to lower blood pressure that I feel I need to make a list and create a schedule for myself to fit everything in – tai chi, yoga, meditation, singing, music therapy, tap dancing (I made this last one up myself; if I could dance in front of the TV watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, I’m convinced I’d tap the high blood pressure away.)
It’s nearly April 15. Last night I couldn’t help thinking about my taxes as the blood pressure cuff squeezed tighter and tighter. Needless to say, the reading was a little high. Maybe that “to do” list isn’t such a crazy idea after all.
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