And Then I Got High Blood Pressure

A lifetime of exercising and eating right wasn't enough to stave off the disease

Photograph by Getty Images

I'm not exactly a health fanatic, but doing things that tip me in favor of having better-than-average health has always been important to me:

– I eat well. My diet consists primarily of fruits, grains and vegetables, often accompanied by a small-ish piece of grilled chicken or fish. I lean toward foods that are low in calories, fat and sugar, and eat very little red meat. (Well, more accurately, I eat very little beef. I do love a pork chop now and then ... but really only now and then.)

– I hate working out but I know I should, so I do. I am a runner, which is the only form of exercise I enjoy. I describe myself as a runner though I actually haven't run since my knees started to rebel a few years ago. But, I'm still a runner in my head.

– I'm pretty well-rested. I almost always get a good 8 hours of sleep each night, and love to nap.

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I believe that my healthful living is one of the reasons I look and feel a lot younger than my actual age. When I had a bone density test, my doctor called me with the results and, laughingly said, "You rock!"

So imagine my surprise and disappointment when I learned I have high blood pressure! How could that be? This chronic disease does not fit the picture of this healthy specimen of a woman. Not one bit.

But my doctor was surprised that I was surprised. His response? "You're African-American [high blood pressure tends to "follow" us], over 50 [it follows old people, too] and everybody in your family has it." I think he may have even said "duh" under his breath.

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I explained that I have a lifetime of exercising and eating right, and the whole point was to stave off getting such a disease. So he countered with,"Right, and so instead of getting it in your 20s or 30s like the rest of your family, it held off for a couple of decades. You should be proud of that." But I wasn't. I was mad. You mean running in all kinds of weather and avoiding fried chicken and macaroni and cheese was all for nothing? Geez.

Intellectually, I get it. Genetics were not in my favor and getting high blood pressure in my fifties means there were 20-30 good years that my organs weren't burdened by this disease some call the Silent Killer. It just wasn't part of my plan (she said in a whiney voice.)

Isn't it ironic? Two of my girlfriends — who from time-to-time over the years have teased me about my healthful living — burst into laughter when I told them the news.

But now that I have it, I don't mess around with Mother Nature. I dutifully take my medication every morning. Grouped in with the five or so vitamins I take each day, I barely notice that one of the pills in my hand is not optional. It will be with me for the rest of my life.

Tags: well being