This is a bit of a long story, but a recent turn of events has led to a complete reevaluation of my health and lifestyle choices. The last time something affected my health in a serious way was when I herniated disc in my spine during high school!
It all started with unusually high BP readings at my annual check-up…
At the end of August, I went for a regular annual check up with my doctor. Everything seemed to be fine, except for one thing: my blood pressure seemed unusually high. Because white-coat hypertension is sometimes the cause for a spike in blood pressure, my doctor suggested that I visit a pharmacy/drugstore the next day to do a retest in a different environment. I did what I was told and called the doctor’s office with my readings the following day. My doctor called back later that afternoon, her voice full of worry. Apparently, my blood pressure was at hypertension urgency levels, and she urged me to leave work right away and go to the ER.
… which led to a long night at the ER and coronary care unit
That night, I was admitted into the ER with BP readings of approximately 200/130 mm Hg (to give you a frame of reference, 120/80 is considered normal levels!) While high blood pressure is dubbed the “silent killer” because it’s often asymptomatic, the doctors and nurses still found it puzzling that I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms (headache, dizziness, blurred vision, etc.) with BP levels that high. I spent the night at the ER being asked a lot of questions (probing for family history, potential drug use or pregnancy, among others) and undergoing blood and urine tests and a chest X-ray. During this time, I was kept on an IV drip in efforts to bring down my BP levels.
It was an exhausting night for me and especially Matt, who sat in a chair by my bed all night, only leaving briefly to get a change of clothes. I was eventually transferred to the coronary care unit upstairs. It was a bit of a sad experience–there were many elderly patients, some who were confused about where they were, while others were screaming in pain and yelling for their nurses. We spent a number of hours there, until a combo of oral medication and a medicated topical patch was able to bring my BP down to normal levels consistently for an extended period of time. Once it did, the doctor discharged me from the hospital, with a set follow-up appointment the following week.
and many weeks of subsequent tests
Because I am under the age of 30, it’s a bit unusual to have high blood pressure, especially at the levels they were at. In addition to the tests in the ER, my doctor from the hospital wanted to do a number of tests to rule out any secondary cause for my hypertension (basically, any other medical conditions that might be causing high blood pressure). Over the course of the next few weeks, I had to do a 48-hour urine sample collection (this might be TMI, but collecting any and all pee over a period of 2 days is more complicated and inconvenient than it seems!), 24-hour ambulatory BP monitoring (this does not go well with driving or sleeping), and a renal Doppler ultrasound exam. It meant a lot of travelling to the hospital and a lot of time off work/working from home, but I know that health comes first. Because I also work with medical technology and healthcare content at work, I actually knew what conditions some of the tests were checking for, so it was extremely hard not to self-diagnosis and think of the worst!
The end and also the beginning!
Last week, I was finally told that all the tests–in the ER and in the many weeks after–came out clear! Because I had undergone so many tests, they felt confident that they had ruled out any secondary causes for my hypertension. I will continue to remain on medication to maintain normal BP levels, and I will need to monitor my BP regularly. It makes me a little sad, but I know that it’s not serious and that many people (even my age) are affected by hypertension. It also sparked some positive changes in my life (and Matt’s):
- Healthier eating and reading nutritional labels: Matt and I have been trying a number of healthy, low-sodium recipes, and there are a lot of delicious options out there! While Matt has always been good about reading labels, we’re now even more vigilant about what we’re buying and what we’re putting in our bodies.
- Everything in moderation: This might make me sound like an alcoholic, but I love to drink, so cutting down on that has been one of the harder changes. Fortunately, we aren’t still living the life where we down multiple beer towers on the weekends, and I know that this is a necessary change. It’s gotten better! The other side of the coin is trying new food places. As pseudo-foodies, Matt and I are still determined to try new restaurants, but we’re now learning to pick and choose our meals out. We’ll be vigilant about menu options, and we’ll only have food “splurges” once in a while.
- More regular exercise: Matt and I aren’t exactly strangers to the gym, but things sort of fell by the wayside when we bought our most recent home. Lately though, things have changed. Matt has been better about this than me (he runs 5K everyday in addition to at-home exercises and then often walks another 5k with me when I get home!), but we’ve been rebuilding our at-home gym to accommodate regular workouts.
- Leaving the stress behind (as much as I can): My team members at work, my parents, and Matt can readily attest to this, but I can be pretty neurotic and stressball-y (my mom calls me a “worry bug”). While I probably can’t do a complete 180, I can definitely try. I have been trying to let things go and to follow this flowchart, which my coworkers kindly shared with me 🙂 There are some things that Matt says I’m honey badger about, so I have to apply that a little more often!
Surprisingly, #4 is working out well for me. I still have occasional mini-meltdowns like everyone else, but I think I feel happier overall. So if some of the stuff I’ve already said wasn’t cheesy enough already, I’m going to one-up myself: maybe all of this was a blessing in disguise, and I kind of think my life is better for it.
Matt has been nothing short of amazing through it all, and I can’t ask for a better healthy-eating buddy/chef and workout partner! He was the one who encouraged me to start this blog to have a healthy outlet to voice my thoughts and to have something fun to do during my spare time (even though I write and edit all the time at work… haha), so we’ll see where this goes!