M.I.A. and Dealing With High Blood Pressure

I haven't posted since March 12.  Apart from having a bad cold which I attribute to too many late nights up reading followed by long days at work and evening activities after work, I have not really felt much like writing.  Needless to say, I have not kept up with my March blogging action plan including NaBloPoMo. Thankfully, there's April and a chance to start another month with new plans.

So what has been happening apart from the many long days, long nights, and a fairly harsh winter?  I decided to pay some attention to my health. Specifically, the high blood pressure (hypertension) I was diagnosed with more than 17 years ago.  I have struggled to maintain a healthy level - deemed to be 180/120, especially during the winter when I did not exercise as much.  The Mayo Clinic website gives, I think a very comprehensive overview of what hypertension is all about. They also published the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet research. I have reviewed the DASH Diet but have come to the conclusion that, despite its many benefits, I don't follow instructions very well and this would be a nogo from the getgo for me. Though hypertension is common (it affects some 67 million or 31% of Americans according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is a very dangerous disease which can cause brain damage. Read Dr. Amen's blog on this here.

Some causes of hypertension such as a lack of proper diet and exercise can be controlled with making these lifestyle changes. However, in the majority of cases, maybe 85-95%, the cause is unknown. I believe my hypertension is hereditary because members of my entire immediate and extended family, who are at least 40 years old, suffers from it and I have lost several relatives to stroke. For me, merely cutting out certain foods or adding certain others is just not enough. Believe me, I have tried.  In addition, I have tried several medications but have had so many nasty side effects/issues with them.  From headaches to coughing to falling hair, you name it, not to mention the long-term effects of taking these medications, on my kidney and liver.  I really do shudder when I read the side effects of each drug.  In addition, my insurance company prefers to pay for lots of generic medications that don't seem to do the trick rather than a good brand name one that works well.  Also consider this - the CDC says that high blood pressure costs the United States $93.5 billion in 2010. These costs are due to "health care services, medications and missed days from work" (cdc.gov/highbloodpressure/faqs.htm).

So I have decided to take matters into my own hands and go all out, adapting several activities and making some deliberate lifestyle changes to help me combat this disease.

Manage stress: I have decided to incorporate yoga into my weekly exercise routine as a way to assist in managing stress.  I also plan to get weekly deep tissue massages and monthly infrared sauna treatments.  Through my readings I have discovered that these activities help in de-stressing my system mentally as well as physically.  Of course, it would be much better if I could avoid stress all together but I do live in the real world.

Eliminate meat:  Although most online articles cite eating red meat as risk factor in elevating blood pressure, I had no trouble eliminating all meats, except fish from my diet.  It's an experiment but at this stage I am willing to try anything that is not harmful. After all, I'm already ingesting chemicals through my medications daily.  This is my fourth week of going meatless and I must say contrary to what I thought, I do not miss eating meat.  I have cooked it for my children and was not tempted in the least to have any so I'm thinking this is a win for me.

Increased physical activity:  As mentioned above I will start practicing yoga and will increase walking activities.  I have no interest in going to the gym. I have done nothing but give my money away to them over the past few years because going to the gym just does not suit my lifestyle.  I'm content with walking, yoga and working out on my Pilates machine.  I also try to walk the stairs at work as often as possible. As a matter of fact,  I lost 22 lbs last year just by walking while doing Weight Watchers.

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