When Joy made her annual visit to the optician she had no idea her blood shot eyes were down to high blood pressure.
It only took one look
Life for me had been hectic for some years, balancing the needs of family life with running our small publishing business. So I thought that my bloodshot eyes were due to eye infections because I was run down.
When I phoned my contact lens optician to cancel my annual eye test because of yet another eye infection, I was surprised that he insisted that I come in. Upon seeing my eye, the optician said that it was no infection, but haemorrhaging (burst blood vessels) within the eye caused by high blood pressure.
He told me to call my doctor immediately. Within the hour my blood pressure was found to be 190/110mmHg! I was amazed and horrified.
Yes, I felt tired quite often, but then so do a lot of people juggling family and work. My cholesterol was 9.8. My GP was blunt – I could have had a stroke or heart attack at any moment. Not what you want to hear in your fifties.
Too much of a good thing
My GP prescribed an ACE inhibitor, a statin, soluble aspirin, and advised me to lose weight (I was about 10kg (22lb) overweight), do more exercise and follow a low-fat diet. The high cholesterol level shocked my family and me, as we already ate plenty of fruit and vegetables and a fairly low-fat diet. I guess too much low-fat food still results in too much fat!
My family supported me in an even-lower-fat diet and I managed to lose nearly 5kg (11lb) in three months. My blood pressure had come down but was still too high, as was the cholesterol.
At about this time, Blood Pressure UK was formed and I became a member. After reading Blood Pressure UK's leaflets, I resolved to record my blood pressure frequently to see what affected it the most. My GP agreed.
I bought a monitor and checked my blood pressure three times a day for a month – throwing up some unexpected results. Very enjoyable social occasions raised it, while dusting and vacuuming lowered it. But there was a clue: exercise.
I used to go for the occasional walk, and enjoyed gardening, but none of it was regular exercise. My GP gave me a month to lower my blood pressure to an acceptable level, otherwise he would need to raise the ACE inhibitor dose.
Going to the gym helped me
With help from my family I reduced my office work and did a bit more exercise. My blood pressure came down a little. Encouraged by this, I joined a small local gym for two sessions a week. I did not really enjoy the sessions at first – but I did enjoy seeing my blood pressure and cholesterol level gradually decreasing.
During the last five years since then, I have found that if I stop regular exercise, my blood pressure increases. I now know that regular exercise must be included in my routine and time must be set aside for it. This regular exercise plus a low dose (5mg) of ACE inhibitor keeps me at about 120/65mmHg.
It has been quite a lifestyle change. However, I have learnt to like it. I feel a lot livelier and, now I’ve retired, I also go to a weekly keep fit class which I thoroughly enjoy. When I complete the hourly session I thank my optician for making me have that eye test. But for him, I could be dead or disabled.
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