Sunday, March 14, 2010

Am I Old Already?

It's about time I came to grips with the fact that I have high-blood pressure. There, I said it. It is possible for someone like me, who is not overweight, who has a reasonably healthy diet, and who works out a ton, to have hypertension. You just have to have bad genes.

Really I have known about this problem for a while. At first I thought I could deal with it by cutting down on coffee, then by exercising more. But no matter what I seemed to do, the readings only seemed to go up. Then I passed it off as "white-coat syndrome", I get pretty worked up when doctors measure my blood pressure, it's like a test I can't pass! Finally, this year when the readings started hitting 150/100 my doctor decided to pull the trigger on medication.

So here I am, 33 years old and having to come to grips with the fact that I will be on lifelong medication. Fortunately, there are a lot of types of medications to choose from, each with differing success for each patient. Not all of the treatments have adverse affects for athletes either. My current morning cocktail consists of Lisinopril, an angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, Hydrochloro thiazide, a diuretic, and Amlodipine, a calcium channel blocker.

The first two of these seemed to make no difference at all in my blood pressure readings, so I hope I can eventually get off of these altogether. I am especially concerned about the diuretic, as there is potential for dehydration and kidney failure in endurance athletes. So far I have not noticed a big difference, but I am most concerned about running in the summer when I know I struggle to stay hydrated. One of the other side effects is sensitivity to the sun, which I have also noticed. Lately I have developed quite a sunglass-tan and I have started applying sunscreen. Usually I don't start using much sunscreen until May when the sun is higher in the sky, so this seems to be a result of the medication. The Amlodipine has had the biggest effect so far with the fewest side effects. There is potential for swelling in the ankles with this medication, but I seem to have dodged that bullet.

I also purchased a blood pressure cuff and take readings in the morning and evening. I am recording these readings using the HeartWise iPhone app (iTunes Link), which is giving me a wealth of statistics about trends and stats. My pressure now has fallen to the 130/60 range and seems to be holding steady. One unexpected added bonus of the measurements is a daily reading of my resting heart rate. It has been interesting to me to see the changes in my morning heart rate depending on my training. I have noticed that on days after my hard workouts the rate is generally elevated which I am taking as an indication of my recovery.

I have come to terms with my treatment, and realize that by addressing the problem now I can avoid potential health issues later in life. Overall this is also my reasoning behind running and staying healthy, so there is really no difference between this and a lifetime of physical fitness. What activity and diet have failed to do, modern medicine can hopefully achieve.


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