LIVING WITH HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
“I love my social life, I don’t want to have a heart attack”
– Jen*, in her 60’s
Jen* has two adult children and although semi-retired, Jen describes herself as a workaholic who lives a highly stressful and sociable lifestyle. Jen has been a chain smoker since her teens and also enjoys a glass or two of wine most days.
Jen discovered she had high blood pressure about 15 years ago when she visited her GP because she felt exhausted and stressed. Her blood pressure at the time was 180/120 mmHg. Rather than starting medications, Jen decided to try to lower her blood pressure by managing her stress with yoga, deep breathing, meditation and massage therapy. She was successful and her blood pressure dropped to 120/80 mm Hg.
Seven years ago, Jen’s blood pressure spiked, which she blamed on stress at work. Again she refused to take blood pressure lowering medication, and continued with her calming methods. She also took time off work to reduce her stress.
Jen decided to try to lower her blood pressure by managing her stress with yoga, deep breathing, meditation and massage therapy.
In mid-2017, Jen developed chest pain at work and was rushed to have an ECG (a test which checks for heart problems), which was normal. Her GP referred her to a heart specialist. After an angiogram**, her heart specialist diagnosed Jen with mild cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart muscle). Her blood pressure was also high (160/90 mmHg). The heart specialist prescribed her low doses of cholesterol as well as blood pressure lowering medications, which she must take for the rest of her life to reduce her risk of having a heart attack.
She enjoys her social life so much and does not want to lose this. Jen’s adherence to her medications has been very good. She has been taking vitamin D and vitamin B tablets every morning for many years and has simply added her heart medications to her morning routine. Her fear of having a heart attack motivates her to take them as prescribed.
She sees her GP of 15 years every 6 months for a blood pressure check and to get repeat prescriptions, which she fills monthly at her local pharmacy. She also gets a full blood test yearly to make sure that all her levels are normal. Jen likes sharing her blood pressure stories with her friends. Many of her friends also have high blood pressure and are on medication to keep it controlled.
Jen makes sure to regularly update her adult children about her health so they can also be mindful of their own risk of a heart attack, especially as their father had died of a heart attack a number of years ago. Although Jen still smokes and drinks, she is happy that her blood pressure is well controlled and she can continue her social lifestyle.
*Names changed. Stock photo shown.
**An angiogram is a procedure that uses x-ray and special dye to take pictures of your blood vessels.