“Do you ever relax,” asked my doctor.
I hate this question. Of course I relax, well…sort of. But when she asked her question a mini explosion of memories burst onto the viewing screen of my brain.
Cue Memory Sequence
Way back in 1987-ish, I was a safety and wellness officer for a large state agency. One of my biggest projects was working with a team of people to bring in a wellness fair to the basement hallway and adjacent conference rooms of our building. We had blood pressure screening stations, blood-iron testing stations, nutritionists (such as they were back then), height/weight presentations, exercise tips and so on.
And wouldn’t you know it, it was then, in the hallway crowded with coworkers that I sat down at the blood pressure station. Granted, I figured I had nothing to worry about because I was already eating large quantities of raw food before eating raw food was cool, I ran umpteen miles a week and I had a road bike with lots of recent miles on it. What’s to worry about?
The nurse dutifully cuffed my left arm and began squeezing that oblong tube-like thing. With each whoosh-whoosh the cuff tightened on my bicep. More whooshing and more tightening.
It started hurting when she finally released it. There was a hissing sound and my bicep was free to breathe again. Then she gasped!
“Your blood pressure’s high. We’d better try this again.” This was all before health privacy, otherwise known as HIPAA, became all the rage, so all of the employees in the hallway turned their heads and gawked: their wellness officer had high blood pressure? Oh horrors, say it ain’t so! But, yep, it was so. And it’s been so ever since.
Off to the Doctor
Shortly after this gasping occasion I saw my doctor (I had a different doctor back then, before he killed himself falling off a tractor). He had me come in to his office in regular intervals so he could measure my BP in a supervised fashion. It was always high. Nothing affected it; and besides, there’s only so much raw broccoli a person can eat in a day. So he gave me the bad news: “I’m putting you on BP medication.” And there I’ve been ever since.
No amount of exercise, raw fruit and veg or strictly vegan diets has lowered it to where medical science presumes it should be. Over the years I’ve tried meditation (both biblical and unbiblical kinds), dynamic stretching (what some might call yoga), deep breathing, progressive relaxation, listening to soothing music, and on and on and on. Still high. So guess what, I take BP medication. And I still eat lots of raw foods and workout every day and practice other relaxation stuff, but without the meds, my BP is high. Go figure!
Back to the Question
What’s that have to do with my doctor’s question about relaxing? Because this appointment was my “semi-regular” quarterly BP check-up; and yes, it was high…again.
“Are you still taking your medication,” my doctor asked, accusingly.
Of course I am, do you think I’m an idiot? Well, I thought that, I didn’t actually say it. I just sullenly said, “Yes, I’m taking it…every day!”
“Well,” she said, tapping away on her health records tablet. “I guess we’ll just have to up your medication.”
Yippee skip. She said she understands that I take care of myself, I eat right, exercise properly (if not overdo it sometimes) and my personal life is not in chaos and I actually really enjoy my job. In other words, there are no activities to add into my life or stressors to start avoiding. So there’s really only one thing left to do—up the meds.
Now I am a little ashamed I have to take these meds. After all, as I explained, it’s not like I’m Jabba the Hut, wallowing away with my head in greasy potato chip bags while glugging large volumes of sugary goo. If anything, my BP should be low. But truth be told, I was born with a bit of heart defect and my cardiovascular system has never been what one would call normal.
Over the years, many of my relatives have died because of some sort of cardio disease. Even the recent death of my Mother was due to a “cerebral vascular accident” (that’s code for a stroke). She had several other strokes in her life, as did Grammy and her father (what would have normally been my Grandpa); he dropped dead at 35 with a massive heart attack, Mom was only three when it happened. I was born with heart valve defect. So this cardiovascular stuff is real and high blood pressure can indeed have deleterious effects; particularly when you already have a defective heart. So whether I’m ashamed of the meds or not, I take them faithfully every day. Yes, I grumble about the indignity of it, but really, thinking I can control it alone is nothing more than sheer stupidity or pride—or both.
So I am thankful God has given us people with the smarts to diagnose problems and He’s given others the smarts to help take care of them. So I eat lots of raw veg, ride and walk lots of miles, eat other healthy things…and take my BP meds. And maybe, by God’s grace and the resources placed around me, I can continue living a healthy lifestyle for decades yet to come (unless Jesus comes back before then).
But it’s time to go now, I need wrangle a couple of heads of broccoli.