In yet another nod to turning 60, I’m now the proud owner of a blood pressure monitor.
I’m one of millions of Americans strapping the cuff to my arm and checking my blood pressure every day. Boy, do I feel old.
I sprung for a good one at Costco, picking it up along with four pounds of grass fed beef, three pounds of organic chicken breasts, an electric hand mixer and a gigantic box of Newman’s Own coffee for the Keurig. The Curmudgeon and my daughter were quite excited to see it on the counter, even opening it and trying it out before me.
At this point, the only one who isn’t monitoring her blood pressure is the dog.
I’m doing it for two weeks in hopes of proving to my doctor and me that I don’t have elevated blood pressure. I’m hoping to convince him that I suffer from White Coat Syndrome, in which your blood pressure rises at the doctor’s office, and then returns to normal when you leave.
It would make sense. I get very nervous when I go to the doctor, even for routine exams. Then again, I think everyone does, particularly as we age. We know too many people who’ve gone to appointments and gotten bad news, and wonder how long we can make a clean getaway. I thought I’d escape – my blood work was good – when the cuff came out. Not so fast.
My blood pressure has always been normal, so elevated readings at my November annual check-up and a follow-up two months later are somewhat surprising. When my reading was elevated for the second time, my doctor suggested putting me on a low dose of medication.
“Don’t you think we’re jumping the gun a little?” I asked. “I mean, it’s usually normal. And I got kind of upset right before I came here. I was standing in line at UPS trying to overnight a package to my son and the woman in front of me was taking forever. I was feeling very rushed and frustrated.”
He didn’t buy it. As he wrote out a prescription, he noted that if my blood pressure’s high in his office, it’s probably high when I’m stuck in traffic or behind someone taking forever at the UPS store. I guess he has a point. When the woman at UPS turned around and apologized for holding me up, I looked at the clock and sniped, “Well, I do have to be at the doctor’s office in 5 minutes.”
Of course, that’s not really her fault or problem. I shouldn’t have stuck in an errand when pressed for time. But isn’t this what we all do? We cut things too close and get annoyed when the driver in front of us is crawling, or we get behind the school bus stopping at every street. No wonder one-third of Americans have high blood pressure, something I didn’t realize until I bought my device.
They say getting older isn’t for sissies, and I’m beginning to understand why. When I asked my doctor why someone would suddenly develop high blood pressure, he said, “Think of your circulatory system as a hose. As it gets older, it gets stiffer and less efficient. It’s is like an old garden hose. And a lot of it is a function of age. You’ve never been 60 before.” Gee, thanks a lot.
I’d prefer not to take medicine, to try different foods and increase my aerobic exercise in hopes of lowering it naturally. But I’m not a fool. High blood pressure must be treated to avoid the risk of stroke, heart attack and organ damage, and I’ll take my medicine if necessary. High blood pressure runs on my father’s side, along with brown eyes, small red blood cells and heart disease.
My father and grandfather had high blood pressure and took medication for it. Of course, they seemed ancient at the time, but were probably in their 60s, a few years older than I am now.. I don’t think anyone wants to take medication, but we eventually accept that we need it. That, and a sagging jawline, are among the unfortunate concessions of aging.
Of course, this is something we all deal with if we’re lucky enough to get older. But I’m beginning to realize I have no idea of how old I really am. Case in point: I was watching Maury, and the camera panned to a woman who resembled me, but was older. “Wow, that woman looks like me, but she’s old,” I thought. “Imagine that.”
When the camera panned back to the woman, I realized that it was me. I was stunned because the segment I was watching was not one of the four I watched during a taping of the show last February. They used our audience shots and reactions for a completely different show, so it took me awhile to register that I was looking at me.
Boy, I could have used a lot more make-up, and a professional blow-out would have helped. As I saw myself, it made sense that I might need blood pressure medicine. The woman on TV looked old enough to need it. About the only consolation I had is no one I knows watches Maury, or admits to it. So far, no one has mentioned it, so I suppose that’s a good sign.
For now, I’ll take my blood pressure twice a day with the help of the Curmudgeon, who helps put the cuff around my upper arm and seems to delight in watching the numbers climb. When I’m done, I return the favor, strapping the cuff to his arm and seeing how he’s doing compared to me. (So far, he’s winning in the blood pressure and pulse department.)
This is not something I imagined doing when we got married 35 years ago, but I suppose it falls into the category of “better or worse.” It’s the least we can do for each other.