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.
- Making my food my medicine and my medicine my food: Hippocrates say "make food your medicine and medicine your food". It is one of David Wolfe's favorite sayings. Eating well has always been a strong suit for me, since I was a teenager. But I must admit a sweet tooth may be what's keeping me in trouble. I love ice cream and baked goods, especially cheesecake. Thankfully I have no patience for baking so I settle for buying sweets on occasion. Otherwise I would be baking to my heart's demise. A homemade smoothie or vegetable juice always start my day. I have pinned some of my creations on Pinterest. If I can't drink my concoction at home, I take it to work in a mason jar or my Nutribullet cup. I have never smoked and I rarely drink alcohol. However, I find that hormonal changes and the current long, harsh winter has up the pressure (pun intended) and it is a daily struggle to eat less baked goods. Thankfully, I'm not a binge eater and I gave up emotional eating a while ago.
- Increase social interactions: I have begun going out more and socializing with my friends. For example, a friend and I have partnered up to go to plays and musicals together. She realized that I was not getting out and I'm grateful for her insight here. I am also friends with two wonderful ladies from my church to whom I'm very close. We are planning some fun activities in the coming months, including traveling. I also gained a walking partner with whom I expect to step up my game. I may even graduate to wogging (walking/jogging) as she is a runner and this may create some balance in our exercise relationship. I read somewhere that social interactions is one way to help combat stress so I'm hoping that the increased social interactions will not only strengthen my bond with these lovely ladies but will also help to reduce the level of stress in my daily life.
Overall, my body is going to be what I make it. I believe it is good to have a health professional oversee my health and well-being but I am no longer interested in surrendering my temple to someone else - other than Jesus. My doctor is a caring and competent individual. I would not have stayed with him the last 7 years if he wasn't. However, noBODY knows my body like I do. It is time for me to take the lead and focus on maintaining a healthy body.
Below are several of the resources I have used over the years. I refer to one or more of them regularly as I build my arsenal of natural and homemade remedies. Hopefully, this list can help someone who may be on their own journey.
Body Ecology Diet and the Baby Boomer Diet by Donna Gates. This is where I learned about cultured vegetables and fermented foods as a whole. Because of Donna, I have developed a real love for Kimchi because it lead me to start watching the Kimchi Chronicles hosted by Marja Vongerichten. I have also made my own cultured vegetables and plan to make more as well as kefir, on an ongoing basis. Fermented foods are very beneficial to the health of digestive health.
David Wolfe's Longevity Now Program and his shopping website Longevity Warehouse where I can view many videos on making delicious and healthy concoctions, is one of my favorite resource. I have also in the past subscribed to his forum Your Best Day Ever along with his newsletter by the same name. One thing that I learned from David's program is how the correct nutrients can help in reducing calcium buildup in our bodies.
Young and Raw. I participate in their monthly smoothie and juice challenges via their Facebook page. They provide many helpful recipes and pointers. Group members originate from across the globe and provide priceless feedback through their own success stories and comments.
Amazon.com. There are lots of free books on juicing and smoothies, as well as other free or low costs books on health and well-being, available for download on your kindle or kindle app on your android phone.
FoodMatters.tv: They are the producer of Hungry for Change. This film really speaks my language.
By using the knowledge I glean from the above materials and working with my doctor, I'm positive I will be able to come up with a formula to kick this hypertension to the curb.
Finally, I do believe that a healing miracle from God is not out of the question either, therefore I continue to pray and have faith believing that healing is possible. Do you or someone you know struggle with the effects of high blood pressure? I welcome your comments and any experience or ideas you may want to share. Please vote on the poll located on my blog page if you can as well. Thank you.