Part 4: Hypertension

So far in this series, I've introduced you to my fatty liver and how it was stressed to the point of requiring me to have a monthly blood draw (or what I like to call a "medically induced period"). I have also tried to paint an accurate picture of my mid-40's lifestyle and how I wore my Myers-Briggs personality ENTP profile like a tailored Italian suit. In short, I was a happy go-lucky extrovert on the outside and a rational logic-loving thinker on the inside. I was constantly on the lookout for my next adventure and I filled my plate with new projects and activities to keep me from being bored. Kendra would say that I could easily bounce from responsibility to responsibility. My only problem was that I was carrying a bag of cheeseburgers and fries along the way.

"Something Bad Is Going To Happen"
I'm not sure when I first noticed this, but in the midst of my "easy-going" life, I began to develop a weird sensation. I told Kendra that I felt like something bad was on the horizon and later explained to my doctor that it felt like an overwhelming sense of dread.

None of this happened immediately, but I simultaneously began to notice a few puzzling things in my physical body. Initially it was the feeling of my heart beating in my chest. When I slowed down to read or prepare to sleep, I could actually feel my heart beating in my chest. This was new, but I thought it was just a weird physical response to caffeine or adrenalin in my busy life. What caught my attention was when the heart pump would also coincide with a feeling that something bad was going to happen. I wrote it off as middle-aged anxiety.

Then I began to "hear" my heart beat. In my temples and in my head, I could hear the blood pumping. This was now associated with an actual increased pulse. Once again, I had a feeling of darkness or dread accompanied with the symptoms. I still chose to ignore it.

The Pressure Goes Up
I mentioned in a previous post that I had to give blood regularly to control my iron levels. At the end of each blood-letting, I always scheduled my next 8-week appointment. I was great at setting a goal and staying on target.

At the beginning of every blood donation, they interview you thoroughly. They also run four simple tests: Pulse, Temperature, Blood Pressure and Hemoglobin. I still giggle when they prick my finger to test my hemoglobin levels. Remember, I have superhero blood. Temperature and pulse have always been normal (I'm the guy who can feel his pulse in his neck).

However, after one busy day at work, the phlebotomist testing my blood pressure said it was too high.  I explained that it had been a stressful day and the drive through traffic to get to the blood bank on time had also amped me up. I chose to sit and meditate for twenty minutes and had her test again. This time it was even higher. How high? I was testing at 200/120, which for me was super high. 

I also learned that when your blood pressure is too high, the blood bank won't let you donate and until my blood pressure was controlled, I could no longer give blood. If I could not give blood, I could not control my iron levels. If my iron levels continued to spike, my risk for cancer was exponentially higher.

I made it to my doctor in less than 24 hours, where he confirmed that my blood pressure was extremely high and probably the source of the pulses I felt in my body and possibly even the feeling of dread that I experienced. He recommended that I begin immediately to take high blood pressure medication and also recommended a stress-test on my heart.

It took a month to see the cardiologist, but thankfully his scheduling coordinator was my dental patient (and I have never hurt her!). Privilege pays! My appointment was expedited and I was bummed to discover that my blood pressure had barely dropped with the new meds. The doctor upped my dosage and sent me down the hall to plan for the stress test.

After getting a baseline measurement of my heart,  I jumped on the treadmill in khaki pants and hiking boots. It took no time to get my pulse where they wanted and then over to the exam table while they rescanned my stressed heart and I poured out sweat.

The results: my heart was structurally fine but I was horribly out of shape. For years I've joked that I was in good shape: round and soft are both shapes, right?!  This statement was beginning to not be so funny.

Here's my takeaway. My lifestyle was slowly disabling my body. I had slowly added weight, my liver was incased in fat and now all of my peripheral blood vessels were being squeezed by fatty tissue throughout my body. 

You would think I would wake up at this point but I had to descend a little further into the disease process. Maybe it would take a trip to Stanford Medical Center? Let's find out together in the next post: bloody noses and a tumor! 

Quietly making noise,

PART 1: Middle Age Status
PART 2: Fatty Liver Disease
PART 3: Ironman Is Here
PART 4: Hypertension
PART 5: Bloody Noses and a Tumor
PART 6: Stress and Depression
PART 7: Diagnosis: Diabetes!
PART 8: Get Out and Get Walking!
PART 9: Kicking Sugar to the Curb!