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High blood pressure: A personal story

Hal W. is 68 years old and has had high blood pressure for 20 years. He was happy to answer the following questions about how he manages his condition and the impact it has had on his life.

How did you feel when you were first diagnosed?

Well, my mother passed away as a result of complications due to high blood pressure. Back then, in the early 1950s, not as much was known about high blood pressure, and there weren't nearly as many medications as there are today. So when I went for a doctor's visit and was first told that I had high blood pressure, I was very concerned. I didn't really know that much about it. I knew that I didn't want to have a stroke or a heart attack, and I knew these were heavily related to high blood pressure.

However, once I was prescribed my medications and had a talk with my doctors, I felt confident and didn't worry about it anymore.

What medications do you take, and how have they helped you?

I take a beta blocker and a calcium channel blocker. I have had no complications from these medications, and I am happy with the results. They are the original medications that were prescribed for me since my diagnosis, and they continue to work effectively. I have had no trouble with any type of side effects.

What is your blood pressure reading, and how do you monitor your high blood pressure?

My high blood pressure is primarily in the range of 145-160/ 60-70. My wife and I purchased a stethoscope and blood pressure meter, and we periodically check to make sure that I am on track and continuing to do well. I also make sure that I have frequent checkups, and monitor my salt intake.

What kind of support did you receive?

The most challenging thing about having high blood pressure is taking my medications faithfully. My family is all very supportive, and it doesn't cause an impact on how we do things daily. My wife is very good at periodically helping me to monitor my blood pressure, making sure I eat the right things, and taking my medications. I also belong to a program at my local hospital that helps out too. It is a cardio program -- they monitor my pressure, we have an exercise period, and it is very helpful.

What weight loss challenges have you encountered?

Well, I am overweight. I went on a liquid diet at first, where I didn't chew anything for 17 weeks. While I lost 95 lbs, and medications were not necessary, as soon as I started eating regularly again I gained the weight back. Overall, I feel that it was a poor choice. Now I exercise regularly and watch my total consumption of food. I also pay more attention to nutrition labels, sodium content, calories, fatty foods, saturated fats, and use more organic products.

What types of foods do you avoid?

Working with my nutritionist, we plan things that are better for me. I don't use butter at all (when I can, I replace it with jelly). Since cheese is very high in fat, I have found a rice cheese that I substitute and tastes pretty good. I try to avoid fatty meats and watch the amount of meat that I consume. I also focus on the preparation of foods.

When my wife and I go shopping, we pay attention to the nutritional values of things. We make an extra effort to purchase lean meats, and we avoid items that are high in carbohydrates.

What favorite foods did you have to give up, and how have you had to alter what you normally eat?

I just don't eat as much or as frequently. I haven't really had to completely give up anything, but I have had to monitor how often I can indulge in certain favorites. I love nuts -- peanuts and pistachios -- but I don't go without them forever, I just have them every now and then. Monitoring pasta is another food that I have to watch out for. It's hard -- but not impossible. Portions are the main concern for me. If I am careful about how much I eat and how often I eat it, then I don't really have to avoid or give up anything.

How has going out to eat changed for you since you were told that you had high blood pressure?

We basically avoid fast food restaurants. We don't eat out frequently -- maybe two to three times a month. It is kind of a treat. So when we do, I don't monitor what I eat as much. While I won't order a 60-ounce steak, I will order conservative portions of my favorites. Or, take some home for a meal another day.

What types of exercises do you do, and how regularly?

Walking is my favorite exercise. I try and walk 20-25 minutes daily. We bought a treadmill to use at home, and I find that it is easy to use. Sometimes, instead of sitting while watching television, I will walk on the treadmill. This keeps the workout from being monotonous and helps to make it fun.

DASH diet

Hal manages his high blood pressure with both medication and exercise, and monitors his blood pressure at home. He also eats right. If you want to learn more about healthy eating, be sure to read about the . (Note: file requires Adobe Acrobat.)


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Review Date: 6/8/2011
Reviewed By: Steven Kang, MD, Division of Cardiac Pacing and Electrophysiology, East Bay Arrhythmia, Cardiovascular Consultants Medical Group, Oakland, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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