Monday, 25 March 2013

Trying not to worry...


I'm trying not to worry too much because it's not helping things, as you will see.  You may recall almost exactly two years ago now I had my blood pressure tested at the doctors and it was a little high, so they made me do a fasting blood test, an ECG and take home a monitor for a week to test myself twice a day.  Well, after I did all that they never called me back in to see about starting medication so I assumed all was okay for the time being.  The readings were only ever borderline anyway.  However, I wasn't keen to start taking meds then so decided to change my lifestyle a bit, and start with upping my exercise, which is why I started running.  I also bought myself the same BP monitor that the surgery had lent me so I could keep an eye on it myself at home.

High blood pressure runs very strongly in my family line - my maternal grandmother started having heart attacks in her 40s and it was her 5th or 6th one that finally got her when she was only 64.  One of my aunts had a stroke in her 50s.  My father died of his first sudden, massive heart attack aged only 55.  I'm turning 50 in less than a month.  I want to live to see my 56th birthday at least (and many more beyond).  If your family history is full of high blood pressure then there's a genetic element that no amount of lifestyle change will help (although giving up smoking, cutting down on caffeine, salt and alcohol, losing weight and increasing exercise are all Good Things).

So, last Thursday (21 March) I realised I'd been feeling a bit breathless and I could feel that my heart rate was up.  It's that feeling you get sometimes after you've eaten an enormous meal, like at Christmas.  I hadn't been eating especially enormous meals so I knew it meant my blood pressure was up.

Over the last two years I've tested my BP from time to time and it's always been less than 140 for the systolic reading (the top one, that measures the pressure of the blood as it's squeezed out of the ventricles of the heart and along the arteries, and is always the higher number) and less than 89 for the diastolic reading (the bottom one, that measures the blood pressure in the heart between beats, so when it's resting.  If the number is too high then the heart isn't resting enough).  The average normal readings these days are about 120/80.  So, yeah, mine's been a bit higher than normal but still just about OK.

I tested on Thursday morning (the machine takes three readings and averages them), and it was 134/90.  Which was a bit concerning as it was the first time I'd seen it go to 90.  On Friday morning, the reading was 126/90, so one improved, the other not.  I've been told several times that it's the diastolic, the lower figure, that's the most important, so that's the figure I've been concentrating on.

I decided to test again on Friday evening because BP is normally higher in the morning so I wondered if there'd be any improvement come the evening.  Short answer - no.  Reading was 144/91.  Hmm.  Okay, try not to worry too much.

Saturday morning's reading was 128/93 and I woke with a thumping headache.  My period had arrived overnight and she usually brings a thick, hormonal headache with her these days so it could be that, but could, just as likely be from the raised BP.  But 93 is not good.  I was, however, also a bit stressed out due to shenanigans surrounding a family get-together that was happening on the Saturday and I'd been a bit piggy-in-the-middle which always stresses me out, but I didn't think it was enough to have raised my BP that much in such a short space of time.  I didn't tell my mum about my BP concerns as she has enough on her plate just now but did take the opportunity to ask if she was on BP medication, 'oh yes', she replied, airily, 'have been for years!' so that's another tick in the immediate family box.  *sigh* - you can see where this is going, can't you?

Yesterday (Sunday) morning's reading was 141/97.  I am now officially alarmed.  What the fuck is going on?  I wondered whether the machine's calibration had gone to pot but reminded myself that I am actually feeling a bit breathless and can feel my heart racing (oh, I've forgotten to tell you the pulse rate - take it from me it's higher than it should be).  Something is most definitely up, especially as it's gone up so rapidly in such a short space of time.

Today's reading?  Well, it's ridiculous - 142/101 with a heartrate of 90bpm.  I'm seeing the doctor this morning at 11.30.  If he/she doesn't suggest it, I think I'll ask to be put on meds to get this current spike under control while I change my lifestyle even more, and see if I can get it down low enough to come off meds.   I am, however,  resolved to the fact that I may have to stay on them for life and if that keeps me out of an early grave, then I'm happy with that.

Wish me luck and I'll keep you informed.

PS.  High blood pressure is known as the 'silent killer' because usually there are no symptoms until you suddenly suffer a stroke or heart attack.  If you're reading this and are over 40 and have never had your blood pressure checked, I would urge you to do so.  It doesn't hurt, takes only a few minutes but may just save your life.  Please do it.


The doctor thinks this is a blip and actually nothing much to worry about.  He did the average for the last 7 days' readings and it came out at 130/91 and said that was actually ok.  At the surgery, they don't start considering meds until someone's average is 135/85.  I said I'd always thought it was the lower number that was the most important but he said it wasn't, the systolic number is the one to watch out for and, looking at all my figures for the last year, it was fine. 

He asked if there was anything particularly stressful happening in my life at the moment that could account for the raised BP, but there isn't.  Only usual minor stressors and nothing that I could think would raise it so dramatically so quickly.  He said peoples' BP fluctuated anyway and it was hard to diagnose properly raised BP until the raise is consistent over a longer period.  I asked if it could be my thyroid, and mentioned that the fasting glucose/full blood panel I'd had 2 years ago hadn't shown anything bad; he looked it up and agreed, also saying that although my cholesterol level was a bit high at 6 something, my overall Q ratio figure (which is something to do with cholesterol + something else, and is an indicator of the future risk of the patient developing heart disease) was extremely good, but he suggested that it wouldn't hurt to do the blood test again to see if anything's changed in the last 2 years.  So that's been booked although the soonest they could do it was 15 April. 

He also wanted me to do the clinic's BP monitoring programme, where I test twice a day, write down the numbers and then add 5 (I did it 2 years ago), and he was happy I use my machine.  He said this would give us a better idea over a longer period.  Basically, the upshot is he doesn't think whatever's going on is bad enough for me to start BP meds because, as he says, once a person's BP is bad enough for meds, they most usually never come off them again.  What TLH and I are going to do is try and lose some weight - I could stand to easily lose 30lbs, as could he, and I'm also going to see about getting my cholesterol down.  I'm also going to start running again - I've not done much this year (last went out mid-February) because the weather's been unrelentingly shite here and then there was the flu that knocked me back for a couple of weeks.  Actually, I'm wondering if the flu didn't 'leave' something behind that's caused this reaction, a bug of some description.  I may well take myself off to Quincy, my Traditional Chinese Medical practitioner and see what he thinks.

Anyway, the upshot is nothing to be too concerned about at present but we'll do more tests just to see if there is anything to keep an eye on.


Little Harriet said...

Good luck at the doctors. Take heart in the thought that at least you are doing something about it and haven't been unaware that it's raised.

Mrs Jones said...

Thank you, LH. That's the way I look at it too. It's best to be pre-emptive than to be an ostrich!

Anonymous said...

I have a family history of high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks too, and I have also had one alarming BP "blip" like you have just had. And just like you, my doctor wasn't super-concerned but did admonish me to pay attention in case it ever becomes a "thing" instead of just a "blip". Glad all seems to be well with you, though (and good luck with the weight loss and getting back to running)!

Susan said...

I am glad it wasn't anything too serious this time, and best of luck with the lifestyle changes. I have lost 2 stone in the last 9 months and it has made a huge difference to the way I feel. I don't have high BP myself but might get my cholesterol checked though.

Quincy doesn't sound like a very chinese name!

Anonymous said...

thanks for share..