Each of us has access to plenty of medical information. Yet I still find it difficult to sift through the mass of medical data to find the most relevant information to help manage my own health. I conclude that sometimes the best data is that which you collect yourself.
Over the past month I’ve intensified data collection about my own blood pressure. I’m using healthvault.com to collect data. It’s nothing fancy, just a platform that holds and displays medical information. Accompanying that, I’ve made dramatic changes in lifestyle. I had a cholesterol test and a cardio-calcium scan as well as a couple of EKG tests. I understand that cardiovascular disease is my biggest health risk, just as it is for others.
At this point I can say with assurance that there are two factors that affect my blood pressure:
- Sugar makes it go up. Eating a desert, for example, pushes my systolic pressure up by more than 10 points within 30 minutes. The rise seems to have a residual effect for at least 24 hours or until I exercise next.
- Exercise makes it go down. The effect of 60 minutes of aerobic activity has far greater and predictable effect than 30 minutes. 60 minutes of aerobics (30 minutes walking plus 30 minutes in some other exercise) brings down elevated pressure by up to 40 points systolic and more than 20 points diastolic. The decrease seems to have a residual effect overnight and into the next day.
It’s as simple as that. I am taking a number of other measures to control blood pressure and cholesterol: improved diet, increased fiber, spices, amlodipine and simvastatin, increase water intake, less alcohol, meditation, steps to improve night time breathing and increase sleep, etc. I’m not saying that these don’t work but rather that I can not see an obvious direct result.
The goal is to keep blood pressure under 115/75 for the next decade and drop total cholesterol to 150. If I can do that, I’m convinced that the risk of heart disease is minimized.
At the 30 mark after my hypertensive crisis, I wrote this blog post on the three issues that I do not yet have under control.
This post is prompted by a college health class project undertaken by my daughter Arielle this week. (The photo was taken four years ago at her high school graduation). She asked about family medical history, especially those conditions with hereditary tendencies. I’m glad to see schools and students paying attention.