Young and Off the Charts: My High Blood Pressure Experience
As an active Millennial in my mid-twenties, you can guess it was a surprise to see some numbers I deemed as… unusual …when visiting my primary care doctor in February for a routine physical. Coming off what some people call the ‘young immortals’ trend in college, scheduling routine doctor visits was a low priority, so much so that this visit was my first since 2012. I believed with a passion if I stayed active and ate (somewhat) healthy, I would have nothing to worry about.
My thinking all changed when I saw my blood pressure numbers. With a reading of 131 over 91, I knew just enough about hypertension to know that was too high. My father, who has dealt with hypertension his entire adult life and suffered a stroke due to a mistake in taking medications in 2016, had always warned me this could be a possibility but it was something I never gave much thought.
As I sat in the waiting room, I began searching for things that could explain the high numbers. I again doubted the reading as some sort of technological mistake, and insisted that they take it again. Though it was a little lower than previously measured, it was still enough to qualify as pre-hypertension. I spoke with my PCP, and sure enough, my elevated numbers showed cause for concern.
What startled me the most, and what should be a concern among other young people, was learning that hypertension is the #1 health concern in the nation according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s Health Index. What many call a silent, low-key condition is creeping into the lives of active young people – even athletes. And for my generation and those younger, as stress rates rise, so does the chance of developing high blood pressure.
Upon reading these stats, I knew I had to make a change. I asked my PCP and Blue Cross Registered Dietitian Grace Derocha what I could do to help lower these numbers. They recommended a few dietary updates (lower sodium intake, more fruits and vegetables, and a more conscious effort to stay hydrated), a change to my exercise routine and making time for relaxation.
I took these things to heart. Within three weeks, my blood pressure had dropped to 125 over 85. It still wasn’t where it should be (ideal blood pressure is less than 120 and less than 80), but it was a step in the right direction.
Among things that helped:
- Introducing more leafy green foods and fruits into my diet and reducing sodium by eliminating fast food and pre-packaged meals
- Adapting my cardio regimen to focus on speed intervals which got my heart pumping at varying speeds as opposed to staying at a static pace
- Reducing stress while at home and work through meditation, yoga and unplugging whenever possible
As someone who still feels incredibly young, it was a major wake-up call to know I was on the spectrum for high blood pressure, but it was also comforting to know there were things I could do to make a change. I encourage everyone, of all ages, to stay aware of their numbers and overall health.
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