By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
April 14, 2016
To this day, I still don’t know if I am truly living a healthy lifestyle. The last few years have been pretty tough on me financially, not to mention filled with stubbornness and indecisiveness. Now, from a foundation standpoint, I know I am doing pretty darn good. My skins look good, my resting heart rate is exceptional, my blood pressure is always well within the safe zones, my protein typically looks good and I am constantly well hydrated. I know all this when I go and do a plasma donation, for they have to do a surprisingly thorough screening just to get in each day. Since I don’t get any headaches due to my initial iron deficiency days, I have to assume that things are going pretty well for me. While my stomach fat stubbornly sticks around, my clothes still fit me pretty well and I have a pretty good lung capacity, which is something I never really had before I started running. From these observational standpoints, I feel like I am on the right track. I constantly look at myself and try to observe whether something is changing in me, meaning my diet has been fast and loose. So far, after nearly four years, much of the propaganda and lies about eating a plant based regimen have ceased to come true. Maybe it just means I am doing it right, I guess.
But, I still need to get these definitive answers some day, and hopefully I can find a job soon that allows me to get some benefits for myself. I mean, I really need to see a dentist! The only real indicator I have for myself is my blood pressure, and the fact they are in the low 120s on the systolic scale while in the low 80s on the diastolic scale on a regular basis is a good thing. I used to get up in the high 130s, somedays in the low 140s. I hung out in the high 80s and the low 90s a lot during those days. Right now, my blood pressure is more or less attributed to a fear of health officials (there is a phobia called iatrophobia, which is a fear of doctors….something I definitely have!!) and also due to the fact that I am still a bit overweight (at least I am not obese anymore according to the BMI!). It was funny, when I used to get my old blood pressure readings, there was never any mention of me having being “prehypertension.” I guest the fact that I was so young, the very thought rarely came across anyone’s mind. I do remember a nurse telling me to cut back on my salt, but I assured her I never ate salt, so she sort of dropped the subject as quickly as she brought up (never mind the fact I ate enough salt in all the various fast food staples I would munch down on. Trust me, don’t read the health info on a Jumbo Jack!) So I continued this trend of poor health, for the last time I really went see a doctor about my health issues was in 2011, when I was 333 pounds and deemed to be in relatively solid health….for the massive stomach I had was no indication that my health was already in jeopardy.
So here is a question for you. When is a good time to really start getting on a person’s case about their blood pressure? I’ve actually talked to some people about this who work in the health field, and many don’t seem to know. Let’s observe the situation from this viewpoint….when we are younger, it is okay to assume that we can overcome the major life problems that are just swimming through our veins. It is not until we get older and more frail (possibly more dependent due to weaker bodies?) that the blood pressure problem is starting to be addressed. It’s a complicated subject to talk about with people, because sometimes a person can be completely safe within most of their readings, and then have an odd blood pressure. That was basically my life in a nutshell. I was like the person who is great with all the written assignments for the class, but stinks on the tests because the preparative instinct within a person is not being utilized in that format of education. I seriously have to believe most people felt that way when they ran their tests on me. I was a weird conundrum in their minds, and maybe they had some kind of bizarro fantasy of studying me in full detail, kind of like Dudley from the “Royal Tenenbaums,” where Bill Murray’s character is more infatuated by a weirdo with vision problems than his own wife. But, before I stroke my ego into such eccentric thinking, the reality is much more clouded. The more likely reason no one ever really said anything to me is due to a massive shift in the blood pressure world. It used to be quite simple. If you have high blood pressure and poor cholesterol, go on a diet and see what happens. If the change isn’t doing enough…time to whip out the prescription pad. Nowadays, the procedure is becoming a little more indirect. With drugs getting more expensive and more people falling under the same situation I had (mainly due to youthful obesity!), doctors are seeking some answers on when is the right time to start prescribing drugs for high blood pressure. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/04/13/473402142/why-its-getting-harder-to-decide-when-to-treat-high-blood-pressure
Now high blood pressure is one of the worst things you can do to your body. The big health issues that can arise from the condition is obviously coronary, as the clogged arteries within your body can cause cardiac arrest. Then you have equally horrible conditions like stroke and kidney failure. Trust me, I have seen family members suffer through both and I wouldn’t even wish these conditions on my enemy. Every now and then you will see someone like former NFL linebacker Tedy Bruschi make a full recovery with little side effects, but that is the exception not the rule. And considering what I have seen these past few years in regards to my aunt’s kidney situation, I know this is something I really need to keep an eye out for. Among other things, you can suffer vision, memory loss, angina, peripheral artery disease and for the men, erectile dysfunction. Now, part of the controversy revolves around the magic number of 150 on the systolic scale. For the most part, doctors seem to be quite content with prescribing medicines to start working on lowering that number, especially since the majority of those who have it are in desperate need. But that number has also brought about some disagreement and confusion. Would a person like me, getting systolic readings in the 140s but has no visible issues (well, beyond the fact I was as large as a truck), be taking these drugs a a preventative measure?
I think if that would have happened, I would have sought a better path of health at the age of 33 rather than the age of 34, for that one year alone my weight ballooned and my poor health became worse as I found a pizza joint I really liked and work was plentiful for me, meaning I could two or three fast food meals a day. But should the doctors and nurses have taken a closer look at me and prescribed me drugs to get my blood pressure into a much safer range? It certainly would be a good time to do so, especially since I was still young enough to battle the adverse side effects that would await me. Truthfully, doctors are still getting their feet wet in regards to some of the recommendations by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which is now focusing on a lot of preventative measures. The 150 point threshold is no longer the watershed moment for a person to get their life together, for JAMA is now recommending people who are in the 140s and possibly in the high 130s to start getting treatment. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1791497 In fact, across the board, people within the 30 to 59 age group are getting strong recommendations for these type of drug based treatments, which could lead to more people on a drug regimen. Some have even included that people who are not even sick but have high blood pressure, be placed on a long term plan due to the sort of risks associated with anyone that had blood pressure above the 120s on the systolic scale and the 90s on the diastolic scale. Now this all seems pretty nice on the surface, that we should start seeking out more preventive measures for this condition. In general, people don’t want see others suffer, but shouldn't the first tactic on the list continue to be life changing, rather than drug adding?
Now we all know, fixing your health is not exactly fun. I’ve been on the journey for nearly four years now, and I can say there has been a multitude of highs and lows. Right now, I am on a regimen that allows me to work on my running while also getting stronger. I’ve technically done 21 workouts in 24 days, and while I am still battling with the nutritional side of the coin (my appetite has predictably risen!), the foundation for getting stronger and healthier is certainly being set. Now, I know what I am doing is not for everyone, and there are plenty of risks involved. But think about the alternative? If you don’t make the simple changes to your diet and to your health, your body—the only one you have—will start falling apart. Now, it can fall apart if you work out too much as well, but that is a completely different issue. Ignorance and waiting for science to save you can destroy you internally, while the biggest threat from making some personal changes would result more in some soreness and potential body injuries. Plus you might have to get used to the taste of some bland food. But which would you prefer? A day with a sore ankle or a lifetime with a damaged kidney? There are plenty of ways you can help out your blood pressure through dietary changes. Instead of eating that sugar laden cereal, eat some rolled or steel cut oats. Add more garlic to your food, just be sure to keep a toothbrush or breath mints nearby. Eat more spinach, nuts, avocados and beans, all high in folic acids and fiber. Heck, you can even indulge a little, for small amounts of red wine and chocolate can provide some healthful upsides. Switch out those sodas with more herbal teas. And for you non-vegans out there, adding in some fish can help. Even dropping a dab of olive oil can help you out in the long run, as well. Don’t go too overboard on the oils though, even if they are vegetable based, for some new research suggests they may not be as beneficial for your long term health as some people insinuate. http://www.nbcnews.com/health/diet-fitness/using-vegetable-oils-lower-cholesterol-may-not-improve-longevity-n554936
I don’t know about you, but I have enjoyed the first method of trying to fix my life in order to fix my health. I had a conversation with some online once when they asked me what I did to lose weight. One of the things I told them I stopped doing was watching television, especially sports. If anything, that was a huge source of my bad health as I relished the weekends, eating too much food and drinking too much soda and alcohol. The person seemed rather surprised by my extreme answer, especially when my life revolved around sports and hanging out all day. But that is the first step really, seeking out the first things that comet mind and finding a way to handle them. It is weird to be a little bit ill-informed sports wise, but considering I just saw the Arizona Diamondbacks’ new uniforms and Johnny Manziel’s constant struggles with his image being talked about profusely, am I really missing anything? For crying out loud, when are they gonna start whipping out the Brett Favre stories again?
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Parsons Training is a Tucson leader in fitness and personal wellness training. Every personal trainer with this company designs and implements effective fitness programs for their clients; these programs serve as the foundation for good health, fitness, and wellness. Additional information about Parsons Training is available at http://www.parsonspersonaltraining.com
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About Our Blog
Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.