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Ignorance is not bliss – Dale’s story


A trip to the supermarket uncovered Dale’s high blood pressure. It was a struggle to get used to taking medications, but he knows they’re lowering his risk of heart disease and stroke.

A bolt from the blue

Coming home from a weekend away, I stopped at Sainsbury’s for some crusty bread. In the car park was a mobile blood pressure unit offering free checks and I thought “Why not?” and went in.

“I don’t want to worry you,” the nurse said, “but you need to see your doctor ASAP.” This was a bolt from the blue as I had never felt unwell.

My readings were 180/120mmHg which, I found out by researching blood pressure on the internet that night, is quite serious. I saw my doctor the following day and he confirmed the readings. He said that although my readings were high, it was not too serious. I begged to differ. The consultation then became a little frosty, especially as I had several detailed questions for him. In the end we agreed that I would have a few tests to look for any underlying causes before we started medical treatment. 

Getting my blood pressure under control

Over the next few weeks I think I had every test available, including an ECG. All of them came back OK. It was then that I was prescribed my first medicine. I had now thoroughly researched high blood pressure and its treatment, both on the internet and by talking with medical friends, so I knew quite a bit about my options. I was determined that any medicines should not have an impact on my sexual function (as certain drugs may have).

I was first prescribed an ACE inhibitor and the dose was slowly increased over a few weeks, but it only produced a small lowering of my blood pressure. This was followed by the addition of a calcium-channel blocker which also lowered the levels – but still not by enough. So, the dose of the ACE inhibitor was increased further and, roughly five months after I walked into the mobile unit, my blood pressure had dropped to a consistent 120/80mmHg. I knew this because I had bought a “state of the art” blood pressure monitor and I tested myself regularly.

Making changes to my diet

Although I was never fat and my doctor said that my weight was not a problem, I decided to cut down on chocolate and crisps and I have lost over a stone. My family and friends have struggled to support me because, I think, they find it difficult to realise or appreciate the potential seriousness of having high blood pressure. However, they are trying, and now cook with less salt and make sure there is an ample supply of fruit available.

The biggest issue I wrestle with is needing to take several pills a day, at two different times. Even now it’s still a struggle to remember to take them because I’ve always been someone who never takes pills.

I will keep taking the pills even though I don’t feel ill

It’s hard because I have never, and still don’t, feel ill. Occasionally I find myself wondering if I would have been better off never having had that free test because it caused me so much worry and anguish. But I know, in my heart of hearts, that ignorance is not bliss and I am determined to keep on with the pills because they are helping to lower my risk of heart attack and stroke.


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