I’ve been hypertensive since high school. I think it must be a genetic predisposition.
We had a phys-ed requirement, and to avoid organized sports, I decided to take a physical-fitness class. Three days a week we’d run (sometimes running stairs, too), and two days a week, we’d lift weights. The next week, we’d flop that around and lift three days and run on two.
I was about 180 pounds then, at my adult height of 5’11”. If you know me in person, you’d never believe this, but I was rail thin. I was also hypertensive. Best shape I’ve ever been in, but still, my bp was high.
(No one seemed to talk much about BMI back then, but according to the charts, I would have been classified as just barely overweight, even though I was skinnier than Kate Moss’s arm. Which is one reason I pay limited attention to BMI. If it calls you overweight when you’re skinny, then to hell with slavishly following it. I’ll talk more about BMI later.)
I’ve tracked my bp off and on since then. It’s always been high, but I never cared to do anything about it.
Then, right after my son was born in September 2011, my wife and I were at the pharmacy, filling prescriptions for her. We had a wait, so I sat down at one of those bp reading machines. When I saw the numbers, I assumed that the machine was broken or that I needed to go the ER.
I tried hard to keep my thoughts from showing on my face as I sat back down by Jen. I went back to check my bp again. Same results.
I talked to our pediatrician on my son’s next visit. I needed a pertussis vaccine anyway, so I asked for doctor suggestions and she gave me one. About a week after Julian’s birth, I saw the doctor. The numbers were staggering: 170/120.
Ever heard the term hypertensive crisis? Yup, there I was.
I immediately went onto medications. We started talking about exercises I could do, and he advised against running. I specifically asked him about doing a couch-to-5K kind of thing, and he said he didn’t think my knees and ankles could handle supporting my large frame on a run. So I just walked all over the place with Julian, whenever we could.
The meds and exercise helped; I was down to 130/70, which is moderately okay on the systolic, but pretty damn good on the diastolic.
Then we moved back to Brooklyn. I went off my meds for a bit, and I waffled on seeing anyone, but I finally set up an appointment at the same medical practice I used previously. (The doctor wanted to put me on statins for cholesterol, but for some reason hadn’t wanted to medically treat my bp at the time, so it must not have been as dramatically high in 2005 as it was in 2011.)
Not CRISIS, but not good either. She adjusted my meds and urged me to lose weight.
Now, about 9 months later, my weight is up from where it was then, and my last two bps were 140/90 and 150/90. Still bad news.
So there’s a new plan in place.
On my new doctor’s advice, I’m running now, three days a week. I got a pair of cross-trainers, a 5K app for my phone, and a new attitude. I need to get this shit under control.
I started Monday, and did my second run this morning. It feels pretty good. Right now, I spend 5 minutes warming up, a minute running, and 90 seconds walking. I repeat the run/walk cycles another 7 times or so and then spend 5 minutes on cool-down. I know my current running pace, about 150 steps per minute. So if the run cycle seems onerous, I count, and as I approach 150, I know it’s almost over.
My dad died when I was 5. Pancreatic cancer. I know what it’s like to grow up without a father.
His brothers are all very large men, not just tall, but … well, fat. Very fat. One of my uncles was over 350 pounds when he died. My body is trending that way unless I intervene.
Cancer, a speeding car, a freak accident. These may still get me, but I’ll be damned if I’m letting heart disease have its way.