I've got high/Low Blood Pressure: can you help me?
High Blood Pressure
I get many inquiries about high blood pressure (BP), and these are increasing. New Zealand is now into Year Two of the Pandemic, which means wall-to-wall STRESS! Stress bumps up BP. I think unrelenting stress is destroying the health of New Zealand.
Low Blood Pressure
Constant stress that drags on and on may completely blow the adrenals, causing a condition known as "adrenal fatigue". Sometimes, a single traumatic or shocking event such as a car accident may have the same consequences. Adrenal fatigue may be experienced as low blood pressure. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue-related low BP include extreme fatigue, feeling faint on changing posture, brain fog, slow or racing pulse, anxiety and generally not handling stressful situations all that well.
One swallow does not make for summer
Nor does a one bad BP reading make for an accurate diagnosis of elevated BP: you need a whole flock of them. Blood pressure is dynamic; it rises and lowers depending on what you are thinking, doing, standing, lying down, sleeping, what you have eaten, hydration, whether running or walking, laughing, crying or worrying. The act of rushing to the Doctor's office may bump up BP, feeling annoyed because the Doctor is running late and your child is waiting for the pickup from school, or perhaps you are just nervous about the sight of a white-coated professional! These can all bump up your BP.
So, here is what I want you to do:
Get yourself an Omron wrist-type BP machine. It must be an Omron because I know these are within five points as the accuracy of the one your Doctor uses, and it is convenient to use; it is far more convenient than the upper arm version. Do a quick Google search, and you will find an Omron for about NZ$130.
Once you have your BP machine, this is what I want you to do for ten days:
Take your BP and pulse before you get out of bed. These are your "basal BP and pulse" readings for the day.
Get up and do your early morning stuff (toilet, etc.), sit back in a reclining chair, relax for 5 minutes, then take your BP and pulse.
Take your BP and any other medications if you are on any and if there are morning doses to have.
Wait a few hours, or around 10 am, then relax in the chair again for 5 mins and retake your BP and pulse.
Repeat BP and pulse recording about 3 pm, after dinner and just before bedtime.
Take your BP and pulse 15-30 minutes after exercise or after anything that might affect your BP, such as a hot bath or a stressful meeting.
Note: take three readings each time and pick the one that appears the most representative and record this on.
Bear these in mind:
Record your BP and pulse on a spreadsheet or in a diary.
Put diary notes next to any that might appear unusual so we can refer to these later.
After ten days, please send me a copy of the readings.
Then, we will meet and figure out what this information means and what to do about it.
While modest fees will cover my time and expertise, we can discuss this and agree before the meeting.
I wrote an e-book about high blood pressure several years ago, but it needs updating. I'll get this done soon. Ask me about it a few months from now.
More about stress and resilience
In his book, "Mental Fitness", Dr Paul Wood (my Son-In-Law) explains how to build your mind for strength and resilience. Stress is good for the Mind and Body, but it must be delivered in carefully measured dollops like a well-structured physical conditioning programme. Pressure is good for us, but there is always a point where it becomes too much of a good thing!
In my opinion, Paul's book is essential reading for everyone these days.
Physical and mental stress breaks us down a little. However, as Paul explains, when followed with the right amount of rest, supported with good nutrition, we respond by growing more resilient. On the other hand, if stress comes at us from all over the place and without time for rest and recovery, our physical and mental breakdown is inevitable.
Elevated blood pressure is not helped by excessive and unrelenting stress, and there is no shortage of stress right now!
On pages67-69 of his book, Paul has a chart of stressors and their scoring by severity: the more points you get, the more likely you will become ill. For example, the death of a spouse is highest at 100 points then, in descending order, divorce, marital separation, jail, death of a close family member, and even getting married. Retirement is worth 45 points, and that is what I've been aiming for - you get the idea! If you get more than 300 points, there is an 80% chance that you will break down within the next year or two. Most of these may not be too bad and may represent times of growth; however, not too many all at once; thank you very much.
When I go through Paul's list of stressors while thinking about the madness going on in this world since the beginning of 2020, I would not be surprised if everyone, including myself, scores 300 or more! Two years are up, and the illnesses are now showing. We can't cope with the volume of emails and calls for help. So much for retirement. The stress levels for everyone are high, including for us, and there is no place to hide.
If anyone understands about stress and how to handle it, it has to be Paul. If you have not read his first best-seller, you must do. It is a riveting read. I'll even get him to autograph your copy when you buy either or both of his books off us. How is that for a deal?