Learning how to manage hypertension

High blood pressure

There’s things in life you can escape from – reality, your job, even a burning building. But some things you just can’t escape.

When I turned 30, I found out I had high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension. It’s those pesky little numbers we all get to hear about at the doctor’s office – the numbers that tell you how hard the old ticker is pumping to distribute blood to the body. Apparently, my heart was working overtime to keep me going.

I didn’t smoke. I didn’t drink. I was overweight but I could change that. I loved to eat salty foods but I could cut down on that. My job and personal life could get stressful but I could “de-stress” as much as possible. I was thinking there were a lot of ways I could try to lower my blood pressure.

But I came to the realization, as much as I could try, I wouldn’t be able change my age, my genetics or my family’s history with high blood pressure and heart disease.

My father suffers from high blood pressure in addition to a host of heart-related issues and is on a “cocktail” of different medications to control everything. My paternal grandmother also dealt with high blood pressure and some heart-related issues, but passed away from natural causes. My paternal grandfather died of a heart attack. But then again, he smoked unfiltered cigarettes for most of his life. As for my maternal grandmother, she died from a massive heart attack.

This  family history of high blood pressure and heart disease were not on my side at all! Here I was in my 30’s dealing with high blood pressure, a potential ticking time bomb with some eventual heart-related issues if I didn’t take care of it. So, the doctor put me on high blood pressure medication – one of many I would take throughout my 30’s into my 40’s.

Jessica Regnaert, MD, is a family medicine physician at Banner Health Center in Mesa. Dr. Regnaert says you can control hypertension by reducing your salt intake, losing weight and exercising. Check all of those for me. Since I  started eating better, I’ve lost 50 pounds, and I’m exercising regularly.

Dr. Regnaert adds that more men suffer from high blood pressure than women, and if you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure by your primary care physician, it doesn’t mean you automatically need to see a specialist like a cardiologist. Dr. Regnaert says you can work with your primary care doctor to manage hypertension and determine if you’re at high risk for coronary artery disease, and need to see the cardiologist. But can you rid yourself of hypertension altogether? Dr. Regnaert says, “It may go away with weight loss, however for most people, it’s related to genetics and may not go away even with diet and exercise.”

I’ve known since that first diagnosis of high blood pressure I was at high risk for coronary artery disease. Just recently at age 42, I saw a cardiologist for the first time to make sure it wasn’t getting the best of me. Luckily, it’s not. I’m still on high blood pressure medication but on a low dose of Losartan to control it.

As much as I don’t like having high blood pressure, I love my family – they’re a part of me in more ways than one. If there’s one thing I would change, it would be the high blood pressure and family history of heart disease. But since I can’t change those, I figure I’ll manage what I have the best way I can.

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