Steps to living better but a couple of surprises .. what I found out from my Living Well free health check
As part of my plan to make a few small changes to get healthier in 2020, I took advantage of Dorset Living Well’s offer of a free health check, not least because their office is based two floors above mine at Lynch Lane Offices in Weymouth. Which means no excuses about it being difficult to get to, nowhere to park or I haven’t got the time. I just had to walk up the stairs (I could have taken the lift but I thought that would defeat the point of trying to get healthy!), I was already parked in the (large) car park at the back of Lynch Lane Offices, and it was 15 minutes out of my working day - a good investment of my time as it turns out as I found out a couple of things I didn’t know that I need to take action on.
The health check involved 4 things
- taking my blood pressure using a standard electronic monitor (one of which I have for my patients, but rarely use on myself!)
- checking my lung capacity/function by blowing in a tube (as they do for asthmatics & other people with lung problems);
- holding a device that measures surface body fat using electrical conduction;
- calculating my BMI from my weight and height.
So the good news was that my BMI and my body fat were within the ‘normal’ range for my age. I was expecting my lung function to be a bit compromised as I have a minor chronic heart condition (atrial fibrillation) and I’ve had pneumonia three times, but it was rather rude for the machine to tell me that I may be 54 but my lungs are 64!
However the biggest surprise was my blood pressure, which measured high at 144/100 - I had just walked briskly up the stairs but when I measured it later in the day back down in my clinic and again the next morning, the average was still around 140/90, which is the definition of hypertension below 65. The reason it was such a surprise is that, with my heart condition, my blood pressure has been measured every time I’ve seen a consultant or a GP in the last 20 years at various times, the most recent being back in the summer - and it has always been fine, very close to 120/80.
So this higher reading is relatively recent and a concern, firstly because (as shown by the other readings), I’m not overweight or carrying high amounts of body fat and although I might not be as fit as I could be, I do an active job as an osteopath (quite a lot of standing & walking), so I’m not inactive either. However it’s also a concern in terms of family history - both my parents have high blood pressure and my mother ignored hers early on, leaving her with renal failure (so on dialysis) & other vascular problems in her old age - definitely not where I want to end up.
However, I’m not rushing straight off to the GP - for a start, blood pressure medications & my heart problem might not interact so well plus with having eaten & probably more importantly drunk more alcohol over Christmas than I would usually, I want to see if my current get fitter/lose weight objectives make any difference. I’ve also started meditating daily again recently and although meditation makes absolutely no difference to my blood pressure if I measure it before and after, it may help in the long term if part of the problem is stress-related, although I don’t feel particularly stressed; I certainly have things going on in my life which I could do without, but I feel that I’m managing those. However one cause of hypertension is poor sleep and that’s definitely true, sadly not under my control much as my husband snores very loudly!
So my plan is firstly to review my understanding of the neurological & hormonal control of blood pressure, particularly in relation to the impact my heart condition has (as can affect levels of a protein manufactured by the heart that impacts on kidney function, & kidney function is one of the things that controls blood pressure). I will probably also ask the doctor to check my kidney function as I don’t think I’ve had that done for the last 3 years or so.
Secondly, I shall keep on with my wellness plan (diet/fitness/stress management) - we eat a lot of vegetables and not a lot of salt (we don’t eat many processed foods for a start) and I have 2-3 caffeine drinks in a day maximum so it’s difficult to see how I can cut down further on these, but I will try. I shall probably consult a colleague, Systematic Kinesiologist Jane Collison at www.equilibrehealth.com to help me tweak the physiological/dietary elements of my plan.
And then I’ll see where I am as lifestyle changes can often help reduce high blood pressure, but not always if it is a genetic tendency and I shouldn’t let it go on too long because of the potential impact on my future health.
So there we are - so glad I went for my free health check, because otherwise I wouldn’t have known about my blood pressure or been in a position to do something about it!
I strongly recommend you look at Livewell’s website www.livewelldorset.co.uk & what they can offer in terms of health checks, support for all sorts of things (weight loss, giving up smoking or drinking, getting active)