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Judith talks about how she developed high blood pressure during her pregnancy. Now in her fifies, Judith explains how it has affected her and her family and sets out how she intends to live to 90.
I was pregnant with my daughter when I went for a routine check up by my GP in 1988. He took my blood pressure and then said: “Go home and pack a bag. You need to go to hospital.” There I was, 37 years old, in my 34th week of pregnancy and headed for hospital. Once in hospital I was induced and my daughter was born six weeks early – for her safety and mine. After five days I was able to go home with medication, but my daughter was not so fortunate.
My daughter suffered a bleed the morning after her birth because of the high blood pressure and she developed hydrocephalus (a build up of fluid in the brain). To ease the pressure, at just four months old, she had a shunt inserted to divert the fluid to another area of the body where it can be absorbed. If I could change just one thing, then it would be that my daughter would have been born at 40 weeks and perfectly healthy. I have always felt guilty that my condition had such a devastating effect on my child.
From then on I had my blood pressure regularly monitored by my GP surgery and thought, in my ignorance, that it would return to normal. But it didn’t.
A more healthy diet
Once it was obvious that my high blood pressure was here to stay, I decided to take action. I set about eating a more healthy diet: I was already very active because of my work as a farmer’s wife and part-time postal worker and I have never smoked and rarely drink. On the whole, though, I haven’t found having high blood pressure to be too much of a problem. The main nuisance for me is that you have to take medicines every day for the rest of your life; it’s not like flu that goes away after a short course of tablets. I have had to try different medications over the years, but it hasn’t been much trouble.
I attend a hypertension clinic, which is excellent, and I am very grateful for their support and advice. Also, looking round the waiting room really brings home the fact that anyone can develop high blood pressure. Because we are a small community, I often see people I know well from all walks of life.
Three years ago I developed angina. Whether this would have happened if I hadn’t developed high blood pressure at 37 I will never know. However, my family has a history of heart problems and strokes, so it seems likely that I would have done. I suppose I could say “why me?” but then, why shouldn’t it be me?
I don’t really feel that having high blood pressure has been a bad thing, after all it has made me think about my health. I think a bit more about what I eat and keep active, for example by taking the stairs instead of the lift. Since it’s easy to think about the negative things, I try to concentrate on the positives. As far as the future is concerned, I hope to carry on with my job. I hope to enjoy it for a lot more years yet and I hope to reach a ripe old age. My mother has just had her 90th birthday and I have every confidence that I will too.