TAMING A SILENT KILLER
Darla opened the text on her new iPhone and beamed as she saw and read her father's comments sharing his proud approval of the wedding invitation. She giggled. At 28, a successful registered dietician, and being the oldest of three she was proud and overjoyed that her father, Stan, would be walking her down the aisle. The future was bright.
As a busy and successful insurance executive Stan and his wife had raised their children, two daughters and a son, in a home with all the modern technological conveniences, but especially with a unity of spirit in values, morals, and discipline. And now his oldest daughter had met a man whom he would cherish as his new son-in-law, having the same values he had instilled in his children and values and principles by which he conducted his own life and business. Besides, Chad loved to hunt and fish too! Stan looked forward to having a new hunting and fishing buddy.
The preparation and plans proceeded flawlessly from one week to the next. The church, the venue, the reception hall, all were community's most notable -- and of course no expense was spared with the food. The caterers were charged with a buffet-line that was fit for a king and queen: meatballs and cocktail franks in BBQ sauce, a carving station with succulent and salty ham, and roast beef and gravy, pasta salad, deviled eggs, taco dip and tortilla chips, and of course chocolate-covered strawberries. And much, much more. The fare was actually not much different than Stan's usual diet -- and perhaps not much different than the community's at large.
In spite of being their "first rodeo", Darla's sister, along with Darla's maid of honor Tricia, seemed to have done this before, so meticulously and well-planned were the pre-nuptial arrangements -- until two months before the wedding date when two hours after the bridal shower Stan developed left-sided facial numbness and tingling, accompanied within minutes by right-sided weakness of his right arm and right leg. He became dizzy and nauseated, gagged, had to sit down and was unable to get up. He began looking stuporous. They called the ambulance.
At the hospital his blood pressure was 180/118. He lost consciousness but regained it the following day. Unlike some stroke victims who regain their function within 24 hours, Stan's disabilities became fixed. Physical rehabilitation failed to recruit the function of his weakened extremities, confining him to a wheelchair.
As a result, Stan was unable to walk his daughter down the aisle. And the following year Stan was not available to attend his son's graduation or be present for the birth of his first grandchild. For he had passed away four months earlier with a recurrent stroke.
Prior to his death, in filing the insurance papers for disability, Stan's wife discovered he had been found to have high blood pressure on an insurance physical. But this was apparently covered up or ignored in an effort to keep his premiums low, Stan being the consummate executive with a self-insured company. He was too busy to address the elevated reading. Besides, since he didn't have any symptoms he didn't feel it was a problem.
As a productive businessman, Stan had ensured his family enjoyed almost every technological convenience available -- except one. The digital, easy-to-use, blood pressure monitor.
Stan was in the 90% of people who do not have symptoms of high blood pressure, with the most common (when they occur) being headache, dizziness, malaise, easy fatigue, or difficulty sleeping.
Would it have made any difference if he had heeded the persistent advice of his older daughter -- reducing his salt intake, the meat, and increasing the fruits and vegetables?
We now know from solid science there are dietary measures that can reduce the systolic pressure (top number) by 12 points and make a statistical difference in significantly lowering the rate of heart attacks and strokes. What are they?
Reducing the sodium content is one. But sodium is in everything! Some researchers recommend counting and keeping up with the sodium content in the foods one eats. But it's been my experience that people, especially men, are unable to sustain this counting ordeal. Without having to look at labels, or count anything, the sodium can be effectively reduced by eliminating bread, a food group with the highest amount of sodium, especially yeast-based bread, along with minimizing processed food -- this includes fast foods and foods packaged in plastic and cans.
Another dietary tool that is proven and effective in lowering blood pressure is the DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) which emphasized fruits, vegetables, olow-fat dairy products. It includes whole grains, fish, beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils. It limits sodium, sweets, sugary beverages, and red meats. So also eliminating or limiting sodas pastries, chips, and candies, and you've made a big dent in reducing your sodium content without having to count anything. The reality of it is the Western First World diet is rich in salt, sugar, fat, and meat and is not conducive to long life or whole health. Yes, this is a controversial opinion but it's because there are cattle, corn, and pork to move to market.
Although there's some controversy about people being "salt-sensitive", reversing or preventing the preventable makes sense. Restricting the sodium in your diet in these simple ways along with making the DASH recommendations can make a difference in pushing the needle of hypertension downward, or keeping it in the normal range.
Monitoring your blood pressure once a week with a blood pressure monitor makes sense. It it's normal, continue checking it weekly. If it's high, check it daily and if necessary act.
It very well could be the one change you make that makes a difference in whether you will be available to see your children or grandchildren graduate, get married, or permit you to play with your grandchildren with full use of all of your faculties, both physical and mental. It's a simple yet effective and proven change. One you can make!
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