Status update

Yesterday was my first appointment with the doctors to do some further investigation into my high blood pressure, and to check if its causing me any other problems.

So I dutifully presented myself at the surgery, where they hooked me up to an ECG machine. Which was kind of cool. From my youth I had a vision of this thing being a machine the size of a room, and requiring all kinds of fancy preparation before it could be used. In fact it was a bit of a let-down. Its about the size of a fax machine. And all they do is apply cuffs (with contacts built into them) to your wrists and ankles, and some self-adhesive contacts to your chest.

In my case this involved a debate about whether or not they needed to shave my chest first – they were keen, I was not. Now, it has to be said, I’m not that bothered about having a hairy chest; but as the hair on my head thins faster and faster, I have to nurture the little devils where I can, so in the end we settled on the compromise that they’d try it with hairy chest, and if it didn’t work then I’d let them shave me. Fortunately the machine decided it was on my side of that argument, and dutifully produced a series of about 8 plots, with no complaint over how hirsute my chest happened to be.  And the good news is that electrically speaking, I’m in A1 shape. My heart is working perfectly.  Which of course, means that the rest of me is the problem. Still, I went home feeling a whole lot better than I had gone there 🙂

Today I had the appointment at the local outpatients department to draw blood. Now, it transpires that I have a dark secret. Despite being a confident, outgoing chap, I’m scared to death of needles and blood. Roughly in that order. And I don’t mean slightly here … I mean flight or fight reactions, and completely terrified.  I know its irrational. I know it won’t hurt. Does that help? Nope. Not one jot. The only other times I’ve had blood drawn was 24 years ago when I had glandular fever and when I was altruistically trying to be a blood donor a few years after that. When I’d fainted three times in a row, they asked me not to come back because I was putting off the other people in the queue.

So today was an interesting experience, not helped by the fact that the doctor had ticked for almost every test on the chart, including all the ones that required me to fast for 12hours before hand. So, not only was I stressed out, but I was also starving hungry. And to cap the lot, this wasn’t going to be a little blood … this was going to be an armful or two (with a nod to Hancocks half-hour).  So I took my wife, not so much to hold me down, but rather to hold my hand (!)  And this meant that our kids had to come too.  So now I’m stressed to the nines about the needles and blood, trying to be brave in front of my wife, and nonchalant in front of my kids.  The only good news is that with my blood pressure, the nurse didn’t have any problems finding a vein!

Anyway … to cut a long story short, I didn’t hit anyone. And I didn’t run away or faint. But apparently I went a very interesting shade of grey, which provoked the nurse to recline my chair and produce chocolate, apparently to bolster my blood sugar levels. And I was told not to drive home, and to take it easy for the rest of the morning.  Which was nice.  The results from the blood work will be through to my doctor in about a week. I won’t see them until mid-January though, sometime after I’ve done the 24hour blood pressure monitoring thing. Here’s hoping that all is well.

’tis the season to be jolly (depressed)

Well, it’s been three months since my last post, and a little more than that since I discovered that I had rather very high blood pressure. The key to my problem is a combination of insufficient exercise, and an excess of everything else (predominantly food, drink and stress). I’m 5’7″, weigh in at 103kg, and I’m built like a rugby prop-forward. Which means that I carry the weight well, and most people don’t realise that I have much of a problem. Indeed, I might well be OK if I were as fit as a rugby prop-forward.  But trust me … I’m not. The brutal truth is that I’d reached the point where walking up 2 or 3 flights of stairs left me breathless. I was basically eating myself to death. The doctor told me to fix the exercise, and that the weight and blood pressure then ought to follow suit.

Well, the good news is that in the intervening time I’ve been like a religious zealot, freshly converted to the cause. I’ve been cutting down on my portion size. I’ve cut out all snacks between meals, stopped eating any “junk” food, and tried to eat salads wherever possible. I also set myself the target of getting down the gym 3 times a week. And to be honest, I’ve surprised myself. I’ve pretty much managed it. The food was easier than I expected, and somehow I’ve managed to drag myself off to the gym no matter what I felt like, or what other commitments I had in my life (which has surprised my wife and friends, and amazed me).

I focused on cardiovascular exercise (building my stamina and strength) without placing undue strain on my joints. So I settled for rowing, the cross-trainer, the step-machine, and the resistance weights machines.

The first month was hell.  At first I struggled to row more than about 500m. I couldn’t complete a programme on the cross-trainer, or keep my heart rate within the acceptable limits. The same for the step-machine. And I ached. All over. Bits of me ached that I didn’t believe could ache. But I stuck with it. And I put weight on. I actually gained 3kgs (about 8lbs for my US friends). D’Oh!

The second month was better. I found the rowing was getting easier. My heart rate wasn’t soaring off the scale any more. And I could actually keep going on the cross-trainer for the “normal” 30 minute programme. Ok, I still wasn’t working as hard as anyone else in the gym, but hey, it didn’t feel like I was about to expire on the spot either. And my weight was back down to where I’d started from. Hooray!

The last month has been much better.  I’m now rowing 4,000-5,000m, with maximum resistance, which takes me about 20minutes. I’ve upped my work-rate on the cross-trainer to 120steps a minute, and moved to a more aggressive programme, which lasts 45mins. My heart rate is nicely “in the zone”, and I really miss my sessions down the gym when I can’t work out, as was the case last week when I had a flu bug. I’ve still not lost any weight, but I’ve lost inches from my waist, rear, and thighs. My clothes are all getting a little baggy, and I feel a million times better than I did three months back.

So today I took myself back to the doctors for a three-month check on my progress. And to my horror my blood pressure hasn’t changed. Not a jot. Nada. Zip. Nothing. It’s still massively high. I could have sat down and cried. So next week I have an ECG and a battery of blood tests. And next month I get the joy of being wired up to some portable device that will monitor my blood-pressure over a full 24hour period so the doctors can analyse if there are any interesting factors affecting it. I also got told to start thinking about formal diets (what do they think I’ve been doing?!), and the possibility of parmaceutical intervention for my high blood pressure.

Grrrrr!

Vincible …

In my teens I wanted to live forever.
In my twenties I felt like I was going to live forever.
In my thirties I knew I was going to live forever with my wife and our kids.

Now I’m in my forties, and I’ve just realised that I’m not going to live forever. Well, not unless I stop abusing my body.

Like many people in my industry, I’ve worked long hours, done more than my fair share of business trips, and been promoted and given increased responsibilities as a result. And somewhere down the line I found I didn’t quite have enough free time to go running any more. And I ended up working through lunch, and stopped playing the badminton that I loved. With the arrival of a family, there just wasn’t time to go Scuba diving at the weekends any more. I even stopped going to the aerobics class with all the 20-year old girls (!)

And then ten years later I found myself walking up a few flights of stairs, only to get to the top feeling absolutely exhausted. I knew I was a bit out of shape, but this came as a bit of a shock. So that weekend I joined the local gym. Who promptly took my blood pressure, twice, before sending me to see my doctor. He took my blood pressure, weighed me, and sent me back to the gym at least three times a week, while starting a strict diet.

I guess the only good news is at least we found out now, before it got any worse.