Article The important things to learn from my shocking high blood pressure story

I have high blood pressure – shocking!

Did you know that I, a personal trainer with a very high level of fitness and healthy lifestyle, have high blood pressure and I take medication for it?

I know, it’s shocking!

Let me explain the full story, starting with some facts about blood pressure.

Blood pressure

Most people have had their blood pressure measured and know that the reading is given as a larger number over a smaller number – 125/70 – for example.

Systolic blood pressure – the larger number

Indicating the pressure inside blood vessels when the heart is contracting.

Diastolic blood pressure – the lower number

The pressure against blood vessel walls when the heart is relaxed and refilling, getting ready to pump out more blood.

Normal blood pressure

  • Systolic < 120 (100 – 120)
  • Diastolic < 80 (60 – 80)

High-normal blood pressure

  • Systolic 120 – 139
  • Diastolic 80 – 89

Hypotension

The technical name for low blood pressure is hypotension.

  • Systolic < 100
  • Diastolic < 60

Hypertension

High blood pressure is called hypertension and there are grades.

There are ranges for systolic and diastolic blood pressure in each grade, but only one of them must be in the range to earn the classification.

Mild hypertension

  • Systolic 140 – 159
  • Diastolic 90 – 99

Moderate hypertension

  • Systolic 160 – 179
  • Diastolic 100 – 109

Severe hypertension

  • Systolic > 180
  • Diastolic > 110

Why high blood pressure is bad

Sustained elevation of pressure inside the blood vessels can damage organs such as the heart and kidneys.

Consequences to health include heart and kidney disease, as well as strokes and eye disease.

Symptoms

Most people do not experience any symptoms.

Sometimes hypertension can cause headaches or dizziness.

There may be symptoms related to a disease state caused by hypertension such as chest pain or signs of kidney failure.

How I found out I had hypertension

I had no symptoms at all, and high blood pressure was not on my radar given my high level of fitness and healthy lifestyle.

I have a machine so I can check people’s blood pressure as part of the pre-exercise screening process.

One day I checked my blood pressure just to see if the batteries were all good to go.

To my absolute shock and horror, my blood pressure was high

I immediately thought ‘that can’t be right – I feel great and I’m so fit and healthy I could not possibly have high blood pressure’ and did another reading.

Still high.

Then I went into denial and did nothing for about two weeks, such was my outrage at the possibility of having high blood pressure.

I came to my senses eventually and checked it again

Still high.

I checked it twice or three times a day for a fortnight or so and kept a record to show my doctor.

It was consistently high and officially diagnosed after a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring test.

I was utterly indignant and resentful about the diagnosis of hypertension

How could I have hypertension when I was so fit and healthy?

I’ve worked so hard to avert my family history of heart disease and here I am with hypertension.

I was devastated and wondered about the point of my disciplined physical activity.

Hereditary and mitigation

My doctor listened patiently to my fury and disbelief then explained that genetics and hereditary play a major role in these things.

Had I not been so fit and healthy my hypertension would have presented itself much earlier and been much worse.

Devastating effects of untreated hypertension

My doctor also explained the effects of untreated hypertension – heart and kidney disease.

I had two case studies right in front of me.

My dad with heart disease and a sibling with kidney failure.

Dad had hypertension which is a major risk factor for heart disease, and I have been told that untreated hypertension was the most likely cause of my sibling’s kidney disease.

How can this be fair?

This is the point where the GP suggests lifestyle modifications, you know, exercise, fix your diet, reduce your stress and if that doesn’t help you can go on medication.

I was so reluctant to take medication at first because I thought it was so unfair that I even had to consider it.

However, with my lifestyle factors all in good order I needed drugs to control my blood pressure.

Coming to terms with it

My philosophy now is that research and medical science has given us lots of options to modify risk factors and avoid the suffering of various disease states.

If we’ve done all we can through healthy living to overcome genetic predisposition to disease, then we should make use of available options.

I would rather take the daily medication, which I tolerate with no problems, than end up with heart or kidney disease.

So, Kate, why do you persist with the exercise?

Some may wonder why I keep up my exercise habits when it clearly didn’t stop me developing high blood pressure.

Things would certainly have been worse if I was not so fit and healthy, so there’s that.

Maintaining strength and mobility, managing my osteoarthritis, and keeping my bones strong are other good reasons to persist.

However, the main reason I keep going is for the benefit that is more noticeable on a day-to-day basis – feeling great mentally.

You don’t know how well exercise is affecting your physical health until you have your check-ups, but I feel the benefits to my mental health every day.

When I’m exercising, I feel good, when I’m not I don’t.

The mental health benefits of exercise are as equally important as physical health outcomes, in my opinion.

Take home messages

Many disease states have a hereditary component, so please think about your family health history, and tell your doctor about it.

Even if you are a fit and healthy over 50 you need to have regular health checks, paying particular attention to that family history.

If you have hypertension, you probably won’t have symptoms, so please check your blood pressure regularly.

If we’ve done all we can in terms of lifestyle modifications, hypertension can be managed with medication and help us avoid the suffering associated with various diseases.

How I can help

I will check your blood pressure as part of pre-exercise screening for in-person individual personal training.

I help people over 50 feel great now and take better health and mobility into older age.

Exercise can reduce your risk of developing hypertension and other disease states.

Exercise is a great outlet for stress and helps you feel good mentally.

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Keep in touch

Please reach out to me if anything in this article resonates with you.

You can email me at kate@fiftyfitness.com.au or connect via social media.

I’m on FacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.

You can have a read of my previous blogs here 🙂

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This blog was written by

Kate Rowen's avatar

Kate Rowen

I wish to acknowledge and pay my respects to the traditional custodians of the land where I live, work and exercise, the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation.