You may not be as healthy as you think. Have you checked your blood pressure?

by Alexa on September 29, 2010

Today I received the below email from my friend Michelle. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Michelle just discovered that her blood pressure is out of control.

She is ~40.

She is slim and runs marathons regularly.

Her resting heart rate is 50 bpm.

She is in a happy marriage, loves her kids.

She eats well.

Her shortcoming? She hadn’t been to the doctor since 2006, and almost skipped her physical last week. Luckily she didn’t.

The point is that one of the healthiest people I know was in fact very sick and had no idea because you can’t feel high blood pressure.

Read Michelle’s story, and then get your blood pressure checked.  Seriously. Do yourself, your family, your friends this one, simple favour.

Michelle’s Story

Friday, Sept 24, 2010
I had a routine physical with my family dr, after not having one since
2006.  My dr noted a high bp reading of 160/100.  This reading was
repeated several times to make sure it was accurate.  I had no prior
history of high bp.  She had me get an ECG right away from the lab,
and the results came back a little funny (slight ischemia).  I told
her that I was running in the Scotiabank marathon on Sunday.  She said
absolutely not to run unless I had a cardiac stress test/echo
cardiogram that very day.  Somehow she managed to find a cardiologist
to see me on Friday afternoon.  After 4 hours of waiting and tests, I
met with the cardiologist who told me that I indeed had hypertension
(high bp).  Since I did not have any symptoms he did not rule out
running the marathon on Sunday.  He just asked me to check my bp at
the drug store with one of the self-monitoring blood pressure cuffs.

Saturday, Sept 25
In the morning, I went for my last scheduled light jog prior to the
marathon.  Felt fine and relaxed.  Went to the drug store a couple of
hours later at 10am, and my bp was 170/116.  Checked again at 2:30pm,
and it was 190/120.  Checked again at 5pm, and it was 199/125.  Went
to my friend and running buddy Bella’s house for pasta dinner.  Had a
nice relaxing evening, and stopped by at the pharmacy one more time,
and my reading was 220/140.  During all my bp readings, my heart rate
was in the low 50’s, and I felt calm and relaxed.  My heart was not
racing and I felt totally fine.  After the last reading, I brought my
sheet of bp readings to the pharmacist for his opinion and I could
tell by the incredulous look on his face that he wondered how I could
be standing there.  He recommended that I should go to emergency right
away, to get my bp looked at by a doctor and see if I had any organ

So, we dropped the kids off at home, and Bella’s husband Michael
stayed with our kids while Chris took me to emerg.  In emerg, they
monitored my bp, took blood samples, xrays. etc.  Even after dozing
off and being totally relaxed, my bp was still over 200/120.  At 3am,
the dr’s decided that I needed to be admitted to hospital because they
could not find anything wrong with me other than the high bp.  They
confirmed I did not have a stroke or organ damage.  I got my first
dose of bp medication called amlodipine.  After a few hours, my bp is
down slightly.

Because I did not fit the profile of a “primary” hypertensive patient
(i.e. old, obese, sedentary, poor diet), they thought that the high bp
was caused by something else, meaning that it was “secondary” to
something else.  The “something else” could have been a heart
abnormality, blocked arteries to my kidneys, or a whole host of

Sunday, Sept 26
I thought I was going to be running a personal best marathon time.
Instead, I was an in-patient in the Internal Medicine unit at Toronto
Western.  The whole floor is surreal and crowded.  There is a
VRE-outbreak and black curtains divide the unit in half.  Patients on
my side (the non-VRE side) are packed into rooms, with several
patients in beds along the hallway.  My three room-mates were elderly
patients who had trouble walking and going to the bathroom on their
own.  In fact, the whole unit seemed like a geriatric care unit.  The
nurses were surprised to see me walking onto their floor, as most
patients are wheeled in on stretchers.

Some tests began on Sunday.  I managed to get a pass to go home for a
few hours for my brother’s birthday dinner.  The dr’s tell me to
expect to stay in hospital until Wednesday.

Monday, Sept 27
Had various tests – many more vials of blood, echo, urine.  Many
possible root causes for the secondary hypertension were ruled out:
hyper thyroid, cortisol issues, heart abnormalities.

Tuesday, Sept 28
Another ultrasound, this time in the abdomen, to check to renal artery
blockages.  Continued urine tests.
In the afternoon, I found out that there are no problems with my renal
arteries.  All the urine test results will take 10 days to come back.
I met with a dietician about following a low sodium diet.  Then, I was
discharged with the diagnosis of primary hypertension, and
prescription for amlodipine (class of drug called a calcium channel
blocker). I am to followup with my family doctor within the next week
or two, to make sure that the drug is working and continue to monitor
my bp.

So, that brings me to today.  It’s still all a bit unreal.  Here I am,
a fit and healthy person in excellent health, physically active,
pretty healthy diet.  I thought I was well-balanced and not
particularly stressed.  Other than when I run, my heart does not race
with anxiety or anything like that.

If I can have high blood pressure, I think anyone can. The reason
high blood pressure is called the “silent killer” is because you don’t
feel it.  If I hadn’t had my physical last Friday, I would have never
realized the  extent of my high blood pressure.  I don’t know how long
I’ve had it since, the last time it was checked in 2006, it was
normal. Left untreated, I could have had a stroke, heart attack or
kidney damage.

I was actually going to cancel the appointment with my gp last week,
because the timing was not convenient for me.  However, due to
procrastination and thinking of other things, I was not able to give
24 hour notice.  I did not want to get dinged for the cancellation
fee, so I went ahead with the appointment.  Thank God I did.  I feel
that I have dodged a bullet by finding out my hypertension before any
catastrophic health emergency.

I would not want any family or friends to have to find out about their
high blood pressure when it’s too late. PLEASE, have your bp checked.
It’s easy and painless, and maybe you’ll end up dodging a bullet too.

If you think it is helpful, I don’t mind if you forward this email [or this post] on to others.

Take good care,

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Farnoosh December 7, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Never, ever skip a yearly physical. I haven’t since I was 20 something and I don’t plan to either….Looks and habits are not enough, of course not! Skinny people can be seriously ill and some very large people have amazing stamina and numbers. NEVER skip a yearly physical. Great message!

2 Alexa December 7, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Thanks, Farnoosh. It may be cliched, but an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure is so true.

3 Ray June 20, 2013 at 7:33 pm

I wanted to Thank You its a great story as it gave me a good deal of comfort. My blood pressure was checked yesterday on a coincidence. It was 200/120. I felt great. I am on medication and its getting under control but my first instinct was to “blame” myself and feel as if I was the only person going through this. Reality is that it was a good non-eventful wake-up call and I can get it under control and live a healthy life as opposed to walking around without a clue and always saying to myself I will get a check-up next month.


4 Alexa June 20, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Ray, I’m sorry to hear that you are going through this, but I am glad you found comfort in this post. Wishing you much good health.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: