I really didn’t mean for a week and a half to go by without another blog post. But life happens.
Also: This post is slightly ranty, and definitely personal in nature. You most certainly do not have to read. I’m not complaining, I’m just… processing some things.
I am continuing to make some changes in my life. Some of them I’m not quite ready to talk about yet, because it affects more people than just me, and things need to smooth over a bit more before public ‘discussion’ ensues.
But what I do want to talk about, since it has been directly affecting my ability to blog, is my health.
Some of you are new and won’t ‘remember’, but back last August, I was feeling poorly enough for long enough that I finally broke down and went to the doctor.
The last time I’d been to any doctor, before last year, was in… 2010? Because I ended being allergic to a face wash I tried. And before that, it was… 2008? 2009? Somewhere in there. For a naaaaaaaasty upper respiratory infection.
I don’t like doctors, as a general rule. It’s the side effect of having watched my brother be dealt a brutal, cruel hand by the medical community over an extended period of time, and I can barely walk into a doctor’s office or hospital without anxiety and anger issues.
Which is not the ideal setting for, you know, having your blood pressure checked.
So my first appointment in August last year?
Blood pressure was high.
Second and third appointments? Still high. But not as scary high.
I had normal blood work done up, plus an echocardiogram (because there is a family history of heart disease), and so several things have been ruled out. Such as thyroid problems, diabetes, anemia, etc. I was deficient in vitamin D, though. Which isn’t necessarily surprising.
During that time, I started tracking my blood pressure. The doctor was not happy that I was doing it with a manual cuff, vs. a digital one, but I told him straight up a digital one was not in my budget, and he was just going to have to deal with it, and that yes, I had someone medically trained who showed me how to do it.
I took my blood pressure twice a day (sometimes three times a day) for an entire month. I’ve slacked off since then.
I also found out that both my great-grandmother had high blood pressure. I knew about my grandmother’s issues with it, but I didn’t know it was definitely something hereditary until this past year. Which means, at the very least, I need to be doing preventative measures.
But I’ve had some frustrations with the medical community with all of this. Which is one reason I haven’t gone back for the six-month-follow-up I was supposed to do back in April.
Here’s some of the interactions I had with the doctor:
At the end of the 2nd appointment:
Dr – Well, you’ve had two high readings. We need to get you on meds or your insurance company isn’t going to be happy.
Me – I’m not comfortable with that. People in my family have random reactions to medication. I’d rather try other things first.
(Other things = diet, exercise, herbs.)
Later, I got to thinking about what he said. “Your insurance company isn’t going to be happy?” The INSURANCE COMPANY isn’t going to be happy?
The insurance company is only there, ultimately, to make a profit. I’m not going to let them control what goes in my body just because they ‘won’t be happy’.
At the end of the 3rd appointment, after looking at my month-long record of blood pressure (most of them normal readings):
Dr – Could your high blood pressure spikes be stress?
Me – (thinks of everything she told him going on in her life in the first appointment) … YES.
Dr – Well, we should get you started on some blood pressure medicine. We’ll start with the smallest dose of something, and see if it helps, and then go from there.
Me – I’d rather try some other things first.
So I left the appointment that day more than a little disappointed. I would expect, if a doctor asks if stress could be a legitimate cause of something affecting your body, their response would then be “Well, let’s see what we can do about alleviating that.” Maybe a referral to a counselor, if they don’t know any stress-management techniques.
Instead, I was instructed to go on a low-sodium diet, and ushered out of the room, with instructions to come back in six months.
The doctor didn’t even expound on how many milligrams of sodium I was supposed to limit myself to each day. I only found out when the check-out lady gave me a sheet of paper.
In the meantime…
I’ll be honest – I’ve pretty much been ignoring the blood pressure issue for a while. I’ve been mainly working on reducing the stress in my life, but I’m not sure how much more I can reduce because the things that are left are things completely out of my control.
I’ve… kinda reduced my salt intake? I’m not keeping track. But I do most of my cooking from scratch, though the main culprits I know I need to cut out are some snack foods (I love cheezits so much. But I don’t buy them every week. They’re too expensive.) and lunch meat. And chips.
I hate peanut butter, though. And I’m not a huge fan of tuna. So I’m going to have to get creative with lunches.
I’m having a lot of headaches, though. And while headaches in general aren’t necessarily a symptom of high blood pressure… morning headaches (when you wake-up) are. And I’ve had those off and on for quite some time now. And migraines. (Migraines are not caused by high blood pressure, just fyi. That was one of the first things I checked. But migraines can elevate your blood pressure. Because pain.)
So I’ve been researching things. And I’ve also started keeping a health journal. I’m not counting calories (though I could stand to lose five pounds or so), but I’m more trying to keep track of potential triggers – especially since I seem to be having 5-10 migraines a month.
But that research? I’ve come across a very interesting fact.
Because you see, the doctor told me it was okay to take ibuprofen for my headaches – even daily.
Did you know that ibuprofen (and regular use of painkillers in general, but especially ibuprofen) has been linked to high blood pressure? Especially in women? (Source: Common Pain Drugs Up High Blood Pressure Risk)
So why on earth would the doctor diagnose me with high blood pressure, tell me it was okay to take a medicine that’s known to cause and/or aggravate high blood pressure, and then try to get me on a prescription?
I have some suspicions. More than a few, actually.
And I’m not surprised that I still don’t trust the medical industry.
So what am I doing?
I’m trying to not ignore things anymore, but almost every time I go to the doctor, something happens to reinforce my lack of trust in them.
I don’t like the idea of prescriptions. I honestly don’t like the idea of taking painkillers, and I’ve definitely backed off on my use of them now, but sometimes I’ve had to take them. Migraines without a painkiller suck, though I have figured out that if I catch it early enough, caffeine greatly alleviates a migraine for me.
Prescriptions and painkillers are chemicals, and I don’t like filling my body with them.
So I’ve been looking at natural alternatives.
And I discovered something.
So there’s this flower. It’s fairly common.
You might have heard of it. Or, you know, you might even grow it.
It’s called hibiscus.
I wasn’t surprised that it doubles as a medicinal herb – I knew that already. But I’d never really done any research into what it does as a medicine.
Well, one of the things it does?
Lowers blood pressure. And the results are comparable to those of prescription medicine. (Source: Hibiscus Tea May Cut Blood Pressure)
So why on earth am I going to get a chemical prescription for something I can grow in my garden?
Oh right, I’m not.
It’s not necessarily ideal for me long-term, because there’s some concerns about it with pregnant women. Which I’m not pregnant currently, but I’d LIKE to be sometime in the next year or two.
But the first step I need to do is get this under control, because I do know my blood pressure goes up when I’m stressed or anxious, and unfortunately that seems to be a lot of the time.
So yay hibiscus! We’ll see if it makes a difference in how I feel over the next couple of weeks.
Also, I suspect sleep deprivation for some of how I’ve been feeling as well. So I’m working on getting a regular sleep schedule (and an earlier bedtime) in place. I really am a much happier person when I go to bed before 11 pm.
Do you have any frustrations with the medical community, or diagnoses you’ve been given? If you don’t, consider yourself very blessed!
Note: I am not giving out medical advice here. I am not a doctor. I am simply expressing my frustration with the medical community, and with treatment options, and doing some research to see what I find. Anything you decide to do with this information is on your own head.