Sunday, June 10, 2012

Trending Down

I had a blood-pressure re-check with my doctor last week. The readings during my physical last month had put me in the Stage 1 range of hypertension, so I had to go off the Pill* last month and get rechecked after six weeks without it. It didn't help that I'd developed White Coat Syndrome even at home. All my life, I'd never given blood-pressure checks a second thought; my readings were always low. Now, just being within a few yards of a sphygmomanometer (say it five times, fast) can send my readings into the unhealthy range.

On doctor's orders, I'd bought a monitor to use at home  but I couldn't stand to be near the damned thing, let alone use it. Whenever I tried, I could feel my blood pressure and pulse rocketing as I fumbled with the damned cuff. So I tucked it in its case and stuck it in a dark corner under the sink. And hoped my body and its White Coat Syndrome would calm down on their own in six weeks.

They did not. Before the appointment, I made sure I was rested, hydrated, and full of bananas, which have potassium, which lowers blood pressure. I got there early and settled in with a favorite novel.** I also spent time looking at photos of our cats on my phone. But I had to amuse myself like this for over an hour, and it grew dull, and I tensed up.

The doctor and her assistant did a few readings and they were high. I was sternly told to go home and use my monitor. If I couldn't report lower numbers in about a week, she'd write me prescriptions. I don't want to take antihypertensives; they can all have annoying side effects, and I'm the annoying-side-effects type.

I was obedient: I got the damned thing out, removed its case, and collapsed to recover. Then I sat in a chair, parked my arm on the table, waited to relax, and used the damned thing a few times. I got insane numbers. I decided to put it out of sight for a couple more days, until after my annual mammogram. One very stressful event at a time. All went well at that appointment so I tried to get cozy with the monitor again. The readings were still higher than they were at the doctor. One was 132/121, which correlates to: "Call an ambulance immediately... or maybe your damned monitor is just messing with your head."

I persisted. I examined the monitor, trying to find attractive qualities... shiny whiteness, flexible black hose, that anxiety-inducing noise when I press the button....  I left it on my desk, where it soon became just another item in the mess. Then I began using it while sitting quietly, looking at soothing things on my Pinterest boards. My numbers went down and have stayed mostly in the normal range. I also took readings while lying in bed this morning and they were excellent.

I hope that's enough to persuade my doctor that I don't need pills. If it isn't, we're heading to Maine for a week and I'm bringing the monitor, just in case. We're better friends now, so I think it will be okay to travel together. I expect my blood pressure will be lower. Maine is The Way Life Should Be, after all.***

* Post-Pill effects so far: cramps, breakouts, oilier skin and hair, moodiness, preferences for loud music and staying up late; i.e., I'm turning back into a teenager. 

** The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman. Loads of 1970's atmosphere and toxic mushroom lasagne, too.

*** Although I will miss Possum terribly. I already do.

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