Tuesday, October 16, 2007

See? I told you my brain might explode

I have high blood pressure. This is a shock because I never had it before; in fact, I've always had oddly low blood pressure. How I came to find this out is a little strange. When I went to the doctor last month, the nurse took my BP. I asked what it was and it seemed high--and not just for me. I chalked it up to white-collar hypertension and the lingering effects of city driving.

While looking for something completely unrelated on Craig's list, I saw a posting for an exercise research study. The carrot was that participants who finished would be rewarded with a sweet Pilates machine. I downloaded the forms and went to work sharing my personal health info. I actually had more trouble admitting my weight than I did admitting I take six medications for Bipolar disorder. I came to the question about blood pressure. Hmm. I remembered the doctor appointment and decided to take another look.

For reasons I will not explain right now, we have a BP monitor at home. I set it up and sat there dumbfounded when I saw the result. I reset the machine and tried again. Same thing. Later in the day, I checked again and it was lower--141/97--but that's still considered high blood pressure. It's not even pre-hypertension; it's high BP (which I verified on the American Heart Association Website).

The AHA has a very nifty tool on its site that lets you calculate your risk of doom and brain explosion based on five factors. I love interactive tests, so I jumped right into the fun. Starting with Body Mass Index, I was reminded that by the AHA's standards, I'm obese. Is there more? Bring it on! My blood pressure is high and I'm a slug. Then came the statistics. I'm five times more likely than a normal person to suffer some catastrophic cardiovascular event.

Well, that's sobering. Perhaps the next part of the test will show me there's hope. You can estimate change in five areas, but I already do three of those things. That leaves diet and exercise. In a stubborn snit, I refused to add 30 minutes of aerobic exercise to my profile, but did concede ten pounds even though I don't believe I can achieve that without severing a limb.

Of course, my risk didn't really change, which means I either have to lose more theoretical weight or do more theoretical exercise. Neither is an appealing option.

I realize that I flirt with my own mortality by not accepting true change, but that isn't what worries me. I'm not afraid to die, but I can't tolerate discomfort. Kill me but don't make me suffer. I fear having a stroke and being left with aphasia or limited mobility. I worry about having a heart attack that leaves me too weak to function normally. Were I to need heart surgery, I couldn't sign that DNR order fast enough.

In my own defense, I know that my high BP is in large part due to one thing: EMSAM. It works exceptionally well, and if I don't take it I'm screwed. This is the MAOI that returned my will to live. How ironic that it could kill me.

I don't want to exercise, but since there's not much I can do to tweak my diet--short of ceasing to eat altogether--this may become a torture of necessity. Damn. The last time I tried to engage in physical activity, I thought yoga might suit me. I had a gym membership at 24-Hour Fitness so I bought a wafer-thin roll-up mat and left my socks at home. Somehow, I had been deluded into thinking that yoga was gentle and calming. Apparently, I had unknowingly signed up for the sadistic-Nazi yoga class because half-way through the first session I was gasping for breath and I looked like I had just stepped out of the shower. The next day, I was in so much pain, it was obvious my body had produced previously unknown muscles so I could experience an extra-intense level of pain.

I continued the classes for a month, but I kept falling over in all of those one-footed positions, plus I couldn't accept that yoga was supposed to make your body hit the Lactate Threshold. That was the end of yoga.

So, what are my options? Be miserable exercising or be miserable with a brain that could blow at any second? Such a conundrum.


Lynn said...

There's always blood pressure medication. I also know someone who takes celery seed pills from a health food store to keep their blood pressure low. Maybe you can start googling natural remedies or something and see what the health food nuts are doing about it. Please don't ignore it. I like your brain and would miss it if it exploded.

May Voirrey said...

No...more...medications. The little pill-a-day box says there's no more room at the inn.

My brain thanks you for the compliment.