Boiling Over: a story about high blood pressure

 

The Avoidance

Last fall I had my doctor remark on my high blood pressure. I brushed it off a little but went back for my obligatory recheck. The numbers were just low enough to put me back under the “do something” threshold, and I breathed a sigh of relief and went on my way.

I was already losing weight so I kept that up, figuring that getting closer to a healthier weight would definitely help. All in all, I was down 18 lbs by December with another 18 to go. Progress, and I’m feeling better than I have in a long time since spine surgery 18 months ago.


I was motoring along steadily on the trainer like the diesel I am, and suddenly my power output dropped to 100 watts. I slammed on a few more gears and cranked hard. The power numbers barely rose and I watched my virtual teammates speed away. Well, I thought, if I keel over on my bike at least those that know me knew I’d die happy.


Warning Bells

As part of my job in a manufacturing facility, I have to get tested for respirator use each year. The technician commented on my high blood pressure. He asked me to chill out for a bit and try to relax, then he’d test again. Nope. Still pretty damn high. They shuffled me through testing and I didn’t think much of it until the afternoon.

By the afternoon, I put two and two together that they had skipped a test and went back to bring the omission to their attention. They pulled my file and promptly said, no, we skipped it on purpose — your blood pressure was way too high. They suggested they retest my blood pressure to see if it was low enough to test. This time, the numbers were even worse and I had skyrocketed into the “crisis zone” range of blood pressure results for the top number, and the bottom number wasn’t much better. The technician just shrugged at me.

The Denial

When I saw the reading my eyes must have bugged out of my head. I thought there was NO WAY it was that bad and ran back to my office. Then I remembered that we had our own in-office portable blood pressure monitor for checks, so I went and checked on my own.

The numbers were still shocking. The little chart on the wall said that my numbers meant I should “call 911”. NOPE. Not happening. I went back to my office, practically hyperventilating. It was late for our building, and my go-to support system of favorite coworkers were gone for the day.

Bargaining

I convinced myself I was just having a panic attack, even though it didn’t FEEL like a panic attack (yes, I’ve been there before). I took some deep breaths, phoned a loved one, got myself to calm down and then drove home.Surely this was more mental health related than heart related, I thought. Like the stubborn beast that I am, I completed a hard workout, took a Xanax to calm down, then went to sleep.

Sulking

Over the next few days I sulked around, not fully convinced that I needed to talk to my GP. I mentoined to someone that my blood pressure had been high, and they told me that the emergency responders in my office can take blood pressure measurements. I began seeking one of them out occasionally, apologizing for taking up her time. She steadfastly assured me that no, the practice reading high blood pressure readings was great… Ha! My numbers never reached the “911” level again, but they were definitely in the “hypertension stage 2” zone, for those familira with the new AHA guidelines.

I didn’t have any more “911 criteria BP readings” but I was close.

Acceptance

I noticed that my intermittent headaches were becoming more constant, and the readings never dropped any further. I begrudgingly made an appointment with my GP on a Wednesday, a week after my crazy high readings. Sure enough, my in-office BP was just under the “seek medical attention” level once again. Shit.

The doctor told me I was at a statistically high risk of stroke or heart attack with these numbers, and he was going to prescribe me the maximum dose of his chosen medicine. MAXIMUM DOSE?!

For a day and a half after the doctor’s appointment, I had what I would consider one of my “top 5” headaches. By Friday, day 2 of medication, the headache released its grip and I exchanged it for dizziness and a few points where I began to black out when I stood up. I purchased my own blood pressure monitor and am quite pleased to report that my numbers are now CLOSE to normal and just a hair high.

False Alarm

Fast forward to Sunday when I was riding the indoor trainer and doing a virtual race on Zwift.

I was motoring along steadily like the diesel I am, and suddenly my power output dropped to 100 watts. I slammed on a few more gears and cranked hard. The power numbers barely rose and I watched my virtual teammates speed away. Well, I thought, if I keel over on my bike at least those that know me knew I’d die happy.

And then it dawned on me — power meter issues?! I have dual sided power meter pedals, and sure enough when I looked down one was blinking red. AHA!! Power drop! This wasn’t the big one after all. I had hastily replaced the batteries a few days prior and had neglected to grease between the batteries.

Follow-Up

It’s been just over two and a half weeks on meds and I’m feeling pretty damn good. I’ve been re-cleared for respirator use at work. I still have dizzy spells so I make sure to hold hand rails on escalators and not stand up too fast. The visual disturbances are mostly gone, and the headaches are a thing of the past.

I realized that I had had chest pain and tightness for weeks — it just wasn’t obvious until it was gone. I have no restrictions on exercise, but I’ve avoided the outdoors due to the dizziness. We’ve been in a cold snap lately and I’m a little happy to have a legitimate excuse to crank out some virtual miles on my Kinetic trainer. I’m convinced this is just another little speed bump on my way back to fitness, and I’m much less angry about it now.

 

In other news, I’m helping plan routes for the quartet of rides for Almanzo. The rides have moved to start in Northfield, MN this year AND there’s a new 50 mile option. I am mostly responsible for planning the 380 mile Alexander, and the size of the task is a little daunting. However, I promise I’ll do my best. Who else is coming out for the ride in May?

 

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