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.
Maria ZanniniJuly 8, 2014 - 9:21 pm ·
I’m sorry to hear about your high blood pressure. Hubby has it and I’ve been trying to get him to join me in yoga in the hopes of getting him off those pills.
In recent years, my lack of trust in the medical/veterinary community has forced me to do my own research to either disprove or corroborate their diagnoses. I almost feel like I’ve earned my own medical degree just by doing so much research. Instead of really listening, they dispense drugs like vending machines, certain that their diagnosis is correct without trying to get to the root of the problem.
Good luck, Rebekah.
Rebekah LoperJuly 8, 2014 - 10:34 pm ·
Thanks, Maria! I learned a while ago to trust my ‘gut’ over what the doctors said, and sadly at times I am baffled enough that I turn to them for help, and still just end up frustrated.
Just another reason why, when we do have kids, I want to use a midwife.
Patricia Lynne (@plynne_writes)July 8, 2014 - 9:31 pm ·
It seems whenever it comes to your health, you’re better off doing research. A lot of research. Don’t stop. You never know what you will uncover. Luckily for me, my older sister is amazing at that and thinks of all sorts of questions I would never think of.
Rebekah LoperJuly 8, 2014 - 10:40 pm ·
Indeed! I’m just naturally curious, so I start researching things. It’s part of my INTJ-personality, lol.
I’m also not willing to take the easy way out of there’s a better way, even if it’s harder. Like drinking three cups of hibiscus tea everyday.
I have a feeling I’m going to get tired of hibiscus very quickly.
Candace GaugerJuly 8, 2014 - 11:32 pm ·
It’s because the medical community wants everyone on pills that I really do not want to go to the doctor. Thankfully, I have a doctor who has listened to my request to be on as little medication as possible and try alternative solutions when possible. I have found, through research and a lot of reading for a character’s skill set that there are a lot of good natural remedies; such as willow bark for headaches and apple cider with the ‘mother’ in it for all kinds of things.
Rebekah LoperJuly 9, 2014 - 2:06 pm ·
I’m doing a lot more research into herbal medicines these days. I’ve always been the kind of person who’d rather treat myself with how I eat, than pump myself full of (chemical) medicines.
TraceyLynnTobinJuly 9, 2014 - 7:17 am ·
Do you by any chance live in the USA? I have several friends down there who have gone through similar things, and after even the tiniest bit of research I found that I am positively FRIGHTENED by how business-like the medical world is in the states. It all seems to be about selling as many pills as possible and charging the “customer” as much as they can.
Thought that’s not to say that Canada is perfect either, even with free health care. When I was a kid I had a doctor who was all about alternative options…unless the issue was something very major, he always wanted to try diet and exercise first. Now that I’m grown, the doctor I have is the exact opposite. Once, I went in complaining about fatigue, trouble losing weight, and low sex drive, and he IMMEDIATELY (like, literally, within two minutes of hearing my complaints) gave me a prescription for antidepressants. My reaction was pretty much, “What the hell, dude? I’m not depressed!” to which he insisted that I try the prescription anyway (hint: I took the pills for almost a year and they didn’t help in the slightest).
While I do believe that medical science is a wonderful thing that has come a long way and has a lot to offer, in this case I think you’re taking the right path. Blood pressure issues (unless they’re EXTREMELY dire) are something that absolutely can be handled through diet, exercise, and sometimes herbal remedies. My mother-in-law’s doctor tried to bully her into going on blood pressure meds for ages, but she consistently refused because she doesn’t have an insurance plan and that stuff ain’t cheap. Eventually she wound up going on a diet as a result of my father-in-law’s heart attack, and would you look at that…her blood pressure is evening out. Huh.
It’s a frustrating kind of world. I do feel that we should be able to trust doctors (after all, they’re the ones with the enormous medical education), but like you I just…don’t. I completely lost my faith in them the day I was prescribed antidepressants without even five minutes of thought about the implications.
Rebekah LoperJuly 9, 2014 - 2:21 pm ·
Yes, I am in the states.
I can definitely attest to the fact that the medical community (with the exception of a few people) is about making a profit, not helping people.
I’m also leery of going on any meds because I’m allergic to random things (like codeine, whee!), and my grandmother has had SEVERE allergic reactions to blood pressure medicine before (which is why she’s not on anything currently).
I’d honestly rather deal with high blood pressure without medication than deal with an allergic reaction. Because those aren’t fun.
helenrjJuly 9, 2014 - 8:36 am ·
Tai Chi is a good alternative for easing stress. Most community centers have free classes…churches, too. You tube videos are available for both the short and long forms I love it. Very relaxing. I’m in a class with people 30 years older than me, but, honey, they go for it! (I only hope to attain that grace.)
I believe we are responsible for our health. Medical care should not be dictated but suggested. We should make the decisions.
Rebekah LoperJuly 9, 2014 - 2:45 pm ·
Spot on, Helen! Doctors should not be dictators, they should be informers!
Laura WeymouthJuly 9, 2014 - 8:39 am ·
The one thing I try to remember about doctors is that they’re your employees. So if you don’t like them, fire them and hire someone new. After having a bad experience with my OB when I miscarried last year, I switched practices and am MUCH happier where I am now. Everyone at the new office is friendly and interested and makes a point of knowing my background, to the extent that each new doctor I meet (there are six women doctors employed there and I’m working my way through meeting all of them) has read my file and even goes so far as to ask me about my family and personal life. They love natural options for health management over there, too. It makes a HUGE difference having a doctor you’re on the same page with, but they are hard to find! It definitely takes a lot of legwork.
If you’re considering having kids, I’d highly recommend interviewing pediatricians before a baby arrives. Maybe even before you get pregnant. Most pediatricians’ offices will do interviews for free and answer all the questions you have. That’s what Tyler and I did and it was super helpful to have a pediatrician picked out beforehand, who we knew had a similar viewpoint to us and genuinely cared about his patients. Where we do hospital births too, your pediatrician comes to the hospital and is responsible for your baby’s healthcare during the first few days of its life, which to my mind is infinitely preferable to the gamble of hoping the hospital pediatrician will be someone like-minded. Oh, and make sure you check about availability for emergencies. Kids do scary weird stuff and any time I’ve ever asked to bring Maggie in to get her checked out for something, my pediatrician gets me in within an hour or two.
Lastly and on a lighter note, my go to lunch option is salad wraps. I just buy some whole wheat flatbread, throw spring mix or lettuce and some other veggies on it, add some cheese and salad dressing and maybe a little chicken if I’m feeling crazy, and there’s lunch. Mmmm, so good, and it it only takes a minute or two for prep!
Love you girl! Now go drink some pretty flower tea 😉
Rebekah LoperJuly 9, 2014 - 2:56 pm ·
We’ll probably interview pediatricians closer to when we have a timeline for getting pregnant. Of course, if it happens before then, oh well, but right now it’s not even a plan. At least not in the next two months!
I’m definitely trying to find a doctor who will work with me before then. But I’m not holding my breath. >_<
As for an OB, if I can get the blood pressure under control, I'll be using a midwife when the time comes. But I can't be a 'high-risk' pregnancy if I want that option, and hypertension pretty much automatically puts you there. :/
Hm, salad wraps are something I hadn't thought of! I definitely need to eat more greens. Thanks for the suggestion!
Love you toooooo! I was actually drinking pretty flower tea as I read your comment, so it made me smile.
KimJuly 9, 2014 - 4:13 pm ·
Let me know about the Hibiscus. I ahve been dealing with HBP off and on for the last 2 years. Family history and of course stress. I know I need to lose weight. That would be a good start. Headaches ahve increased a bit. Like you, I don’t want to be on meds if I can deal with it otherwise. Love you!
heylookawriterfellowJuly 13, 2014 - 4:03 pm ·
Here’s hoping the hibiscus works.
Regardless, I think you need to shop around for a new doctor.
Cheyenne CampbellJuly 14, 2014 - 5:27 pm ·
I totally replied to this on my iPhone and it (my phone) ate the entire thing… but I just responded to your comment on my blog about that 😉 so I’ll shorten it here.
I’m so glad you’ve done research and not just sat back and taken what the doctor has offered you (I mean that figuratively, but literally works, too). Yes, I’ve DEFINITELY had frustrations with the medical industry since the NHS has a whole shedload of problems that have driven me crazy in the past year. While I know the U.S. has it’s own issues, the NHS is truly terrible in my experience. I’ve had the NHS lose my EKG results, an x-ray, and misdiagnose me at least 5 times. Not on anything life-threatening, thank God, but the lack of care in the industry, the overpaid doctors who work about 3 days a week and the fact that it’s true many abuse the system and that makes it hard for the people who genuinely have problems… it’s all a mess. So when a doctor tells me on 2 occasions that my problem is “just anxiety, go see a therapist” and then the doctor 2 doors down from her says, “Um, no, go get an endoscopy,” then I definitely lose my patience.
I really hope the hibiscus, and playing around with your sleep schedule (and hopefully, getting more of it!) begins to help, and soon! Keep us posted, and take it easy! Migraines are awful things, and I’m so sorry you’re going through this but hang in there! *hugs*