Yesterday marked one month since I was treated for an acute hypertensive event. After consulting with my personal physician on the telephone, I walked to a medical clinic in Vineland NJ on December 28 just as they were closing and an empathetic physician saw me and administered a drug to temporarily lower my blood pressure. Since then, I’ve taken a number of actions to change lifestyle and diet, am taking medications, and had a range of medical tests. It appears that I have made some progress. I wrote about my observations in another blog post. My pulse rate is lower, my muscle tone and body shape are noticeably improved (at least an inch lost at the waist) and this morning my pressure is at least 20 points lower than a month ago. Stated another way, I’ve brought down my risk of heart attack or stroke from ‘high’ to ‘moderate’ with a month of focused effort.
Simply put, it comes down to this: if I avoid sugar and exercise 60 minutes every day then my blood pressure is fine; it moves toward the range of 115/75 and doesn’t peak much above 130/90. But I find that is much easier said than done so I imagine this will remain a daily struggle for the rest of my life.
This blog post, however, is about the three things I have not learned, have not accomplished, and do not yet have under control.
First is weight. All evidence indicates that losing weight helps lower blood pressure and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. I haven’t lost a pound despite significant change in diet toward a vegetable-based cuisine with less sugar and alcohol. Yesterday my father noted who many former wresting champions, including many of my teammates, have eight management problems now. I don’t know if there is any connection, but it seems possible. The cause seems obvious: I am consuming too many calories and so I need to count and limit calories. This is difficult, especially when traveling or attending business or social functions. I eat at least half of my meals ‘on the go’. Recording calories takes additional time, something that I don’t have on most days. Yet it needs to be done, starting today.
The second is sleep. All evidence indicates that living on minimal sleep makes it difficult to lose weight and elevates blood pressure. I’ve taken a number of steps designed to improve sleep with little result. I underwent a sleep study at University of Pennsylvania, and had nasal surgery. A cpap was not indicated as it does not appear that I suffer from sleep apnea but allergic rhinitis instead. The triggering seem to be pet dander, mold, smoke (in hotels) and seasonal pollen. I’ve tested a number of adjustments but it increasingly looks like this is something that I will need to live with.
The third is stress. Running multiple businesses, working 7 days a week from early morning to late at night takes a toll. The overall state of life is an aggravating factor. I work more and earn less than I ever did at any earlier time of my life. I take less time off for recreation (other than gym visits) than ever before. I support more dependants and others financially and otherwise in many indirect ways. In short, I feel like every day is a struggle to meet life’s minimum expectations.
I have made some changes to address stress that create whole new stresses of their own. First, I won’t accept any work without payment arrangements made in advance. This has aggravated potential clients and puts additional pressure on my income. Yet see this as the ‘lesser stress’ compared to the amount incurred collecting fees late last year. Second, I put time each day for myself as a priority over other activities. That primarily includes the gym, reading, and writing (like this blog post). Again that causes a stress of its own. Imagine how it went this past month when I said “Sorry I can’t drive you to the doctor because that is my only time available to exercise”. Or “I can’t make the board meeting because it cuts into my important personal time”. My new focus on health is causing increased stress in my business and personal relationships. Yet I see it literally as a matter of life and death for me. Only time will tell how this works out.
It is clear that these three issues – weight, sleep and stress – all work together to undermine my health. I expect that my #1 focused effort going forward and continuing for the rest of my like will be finding better ways to manage all three.