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I Have High Blood Pressure

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January 8, 2008, last updated July 30, 2014

By Samantha Landry, Contributing Columnist

Your pressure is high".  The ominous words are echoing in my head
even as I am lying down hours after the doctor's visit today.

160 over 90. That's what my readings are today.  I still find it hard to
absorb. All my life I had more than a little pride that my vital stats
were always so good. Blood pressure--120 over 70, sometimes 110
over 70.  This was true even as my weight climbed up over the years,
from 115-120 in college to 240 at my highest. I don't know where it
is now exactly -- I subscribe to that self-delusion that it's best to get
a running start on a weight program before I needlessly bombard
myself with any accurate information about my true weight.  

I likened myself to a sea lion or walrus --- you know, blubbery on the
outside, but supremely fit on the inside where it counts --- capable of
swimming 10,000 miles non-stop in dark, cold ocean waters.  Fat but

I was wrong. I am not fat but fit. I am not a seal lion. I am a
beached whale.

Problem was, I was being evaluated for a new HMO plan. That's why
I was at the doctor's office today.  And, surprise, my ballooned-up
blood pressure numbers are north of the maximum allowable
threshhold for the plan.  I have to get healthier just to get insured so
I can get healthier.

Straight to the internet for some research. It turns out that any
blood pressure number over 140 for a top number (the systolic
number) is considered Stage One High Blood Pressure. Any bottom
number (diastolic) over 90 is likewise bad news. Any top number
over 160 is considered Stage Two.  Stage Two is the edge of the
cliff.  At a reading of 160 for a top number, I'm at the edge of the
cliff, looking over. There is no Stage Three so I guess the next stage
is what, Death?

A high bottom number is worse than a high top number because the
bottom number is your blood pressure at rest. At rest, for God's
sake. So if your bottom number is high, the blood is pushing against
your artery walls all the time-- that's every second of the day and
night, which can cause aneurysm, the pouching out of the artery
walls, leading to Death.

Now, I re-read some of the articles Susan Callahan has been after me
to read. I really read them. I'm going to change.

I'll let you now how I'm doing as I progress (hopefully) but here is
my game plan:

1. Eat a big bowl of salad for lunch and dinner with fish, not cooked
in salt.

2. I'm giving up carbonated drinks . These can lower the levels of
calcium in my blood, which raise blood pressure.

3. Eat more low-fat dairy three times a day. Raises calcium.

4. Try to eliminate the extra salt.

5. Walk around the park near my house 30 minutes in the morning
and 30 minutes after dinner.

6. Take a baby aspirin just before I go to bed. One study says it
helps and I'm looking for all the help--and hope--I can find.

This sea lion is going to become a sleek dolphin.  For the next 30
days, follow my progress on my
Sea Lion's Diet.

Do you know your blood pressure numbers? Where do you stand?
The chart to the right can help.  You should also take a look at
chart which shows you what normal blood pressure is for people of
different ages.


My heretofore blasé attitude about blood pressure and weight were a
luxury I can no longer afford.  I am now in my 50's.  Moreover, I
have learned that high blood pressure is not just a threat to my
cardiovascular system, it is actually a threat to my brain. New
research has found that
high blood pressure shrinks your brain.

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