Pursuing Heart Health by the Numbers

When trying to make essential changes to your lifestyle, there are two approaches. The first is largely psychological, and involves making decisions to forego bad habits that may have led to weight gain and high blood pressure (as it was with me), while embarking on a more healthy regimen of diet and exercise.

The second approach is just as important, and revolves around numbers: your blood pressure readings, which should be taken each day, and your weight changes (hopefully gradual and steady reductions) that can be recorded using the home bathroom scale. 

These have become part of my regular routine, since my doctor recommended I take immediate action to address my high blood pressure. Thanks to my friends at Heart of a Giant, I was able to acquire a home blood pressure monitoring kit (available at any major retail pharmacy) to track my numbers every morning before going to work.  The BP check only takes two minutes, and can alert you to any potential spikes in blood pressure that could pose a danger to your health.

My first day taking my blood pressure I registered a 136 over 87. This is far above the accepted “normal” reading of 120/80, but lower than I had been reading at prior medical office visits. I take amlodipine  daily for blood pressure management, and atorvastatin for manage my cholesterol, but now I’m trying to substitute healthier options in my diet to augment the impact of my medicines.

  • Some dietary changes made this month (as I await an appointment with my new nutritionist: 
  • Flavored seltzer water instead of coca cola.
  • Granola bars instead of muffins and donuts
  • More chicken and rice, fewer pork chops and potatoes.
  • More salads, fewer prepared foods.

Regularly monitoring my blood pressure keeps me honest about my dietary habits. Over the first two weeks I saw a slow decline in my lower numbers (although the first number is still too high). My last reading on July 27 was 137 over 81.  As we like to say in Alcoholics Anonymous, the goal is progress, not perfection!

In the same vein, I have started to see a drop in my weight, although it can be frustrating when you feel like you’re starving yourself, only to see little if any change. When I started this campaign for heart health, I weighed just a smidge under 260 pounds. As of this writing, my last weigh-in found me at 251. Not where I need to be, but better than I was before…

So while I try to get used to having vanilla yogurt for breakfast in lieu of bacon, and manage the discipline to avoid my mid-afternoon slice of pizza while driving from appointment to appointment, I keep in mind my motivation for all this: trying to be present and active for my sons, not just now, but for when they grow into adulthood. 

My two oldest boys are in college, and are almost complete in their journey to becoming men. But my little one, now 13, has a long path ahead. I want to be there to share in his experiences, provide guidance when necessary, and witness the outcome at the end. If I can add 10 more years to my life by caring for my heart and keeping my blood pressure in check, then all the missed donuts and Chinese takeout dinners will have been worth it.

About the author:

Lewis Howe is the Community Partnerships Co-Ordinator for the Heart of a Giant Foundation. He welcomes your ideas, suggestions and expressions of support to help him in his fight against high blood pressure. You can reach him at lewishowe1@gmail.com.

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