I have always been blessed with great health. When I got my life insurance a few years ago, I got the best rates because my blood work was so good. I have always taken pride in that, kind of like getting straight A’s or being number one on a test in medical school (ok, that only happened once, and in pathology, my future profession, but it happened! Out of a class of 150!). So you can imagine my despair last Fall in the midst of wedding preparation when my OB incidentally discovered I had hypertension. I’m not talking minor hypertension: my systolic would swing up in the 2 teens and diastolic would go over 100 easily. I know, because I bought a sphygmomanometer (I love that word) for home and work, and became obsessive.
My OB recommended a family doctor and he prescribed me with metoprolol. I have been long acquainted with beta blockers – learning from a friend in med school that they are good for anxiety inducing situations such as giving talks in front of large groups of people. I applied this knowledge to many situations – that time I was interviewed about the swine flu on TV, going out on excruciating first dates on match after I was divorced. They are great for calming your physiologic response to stress without messing with your thought process. But the same bottle lasted me almost ten years and learning I had to take it daily really upset me. I have always run low, why the sudden change? I learned that I accidentally gained 26 pounds after I got engaged, and was determined to lose half before the wedding.
That was two months of mania. It didn’t seem to me that the beta blockers were doing much – I checked five or six times a day and my blood pressure was all over the map. I was religiously weighing myself every morning – something I normally stay away from doing. I managed to carve my weight gain in half before I got married. I was texting my cardiologist friend and hospitalist friend weekly with my numbers and quizzing them on how to get them down. “My systolic is way over 200! My diastolic is over 100! Should I take another beta blocker? Go to the ED? AHHH.”
About a week before the October wedding when I finally fit in my dress I had bought in June I was like ENOUGH. I made myself stop getting on the scale. I stopped checking my pressures. I was determined to enjoy my wedding and honeymoon. On a follow up appointment with my family doc in January, my pressure was fine. Not low, but systolic was 130, diastolic mid 80’s. “I wouldn’t treat those numbers,” he said, and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was the weight gain, the wedding, the holidays, I told myself. This is over now. I’m back to perfect health.
So you can imagine my surprise three weeks ago at my yearly OB check-up when the nurse asked to take my pressure again, “These numbers cannot be right. Are you symptomatic? Do you have a headache or anything?” No, never. My OB recommended another appointment with family doc. His nurse measured it twice too. 164/100. “Stop talking take a deep breath let me do it again.” 152/90. I looked at her expectantly, “That’s not very good, is it?” The doctor in me knowing it wasn’t but the perfectionist in me wanting reassurance. No such luck. “No, it’s not. Are you stressed?” I told her no, I was on vacation, I spent the entire weekend watching Homeland on the couch.
Family doc decided to re-start the metoprolol daily. I told him I cannot go back to the manic numbers oriented person I was last Fall. I made him laugh describing crazy texts to mutual colleagues. I said, “This is your territory, not mine. Can we keep it that way, is that ok?” He laughed and told me to come back in six weeks for a physical and we would check it then. I asked him to review my blood work from last fall. He said it all looked great. Cholesterol was fine. Then he said something with utter surprise that filled my bruised ego with pride. “I think that is the best LDL I’ve ever seen. Yup, I’ve never seen one lower than that.”
I could think of worse things than having to take a daily beta blocker. It sure made me chill in the face of a large cooking project yesterday – not my area of expertise. I had to call my pulmonologist friend in Philly in a panic when my Instapot wasn’t working, but I managed to figure it out without blowing up the kitchen or burning myself. I guess I keep going on as usual – working out a few times a week, eating as normal (my low salt diet attempt last Fall was dismal but I’ll keep it in mind) and healthy as possible. Aging is tough, but I guess we all have to do it.
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