Several years ago, I went to a health screening at work. It was a pretty comprehensive screening that involved taking my blood and testing it for what I was sure would prove to be a majorly unhealthy lifestyle (meaning I drank a lot, didn’t sleep much, and ate like a 50-year-old dockworker who participates in bacon grease-drinking competitions). Despite my lifestyle, I was told that I was actually in excellent health. My blood pressure was great. My blood sugar and bad cholesterol were ideally low. Since then, I’ve been coasting on this information as well as the knowledge that I live much better now.
Then, about a month ago, I hurt my shoulder. I hurt it bad enough that I had to go to the doctor in order to be prescribed muscle relaxers, but since this was a new doctor located across the country from my old doctor, I had to get a physical before I could get this prescription. It was during this physical that I was told my blood pressure was approaching the high range. This was a bit concerning to me, but the doctor said that blood pressure is usually high when you’re in pain or stressed (ahem, when you’re in the doctor’s office) so I shouldn’t worry about it too much.
Then I went to the doctor again this past week for vertigo. I wasn’t in pain this time and, since I don’t dare mess around with WebMD and I knew I wasn’t displaying the symptoms of a stroke, I wasn’t particularly stressed. Still, though, I was told that my blood pressure was approaching the high range, and when I consulted Doctor Google later that day, I learned that it is what the medical community calls “pre-hypertension.”
I can’t say that I didn’t know this was coming. I don’t come from the healthiest of families; however, I was convinced that most of the problems that run on both sides were attributable to things like lifetime alcohol abuse, smoking, and generally acting like an asshole. But I am apparently not immune to the things that wait for me to a reach a certain age, so now that pre-hypertension has surfaced, what’s the hold up, bring on the alcoholism and mental illness! WOOOOOOOOO!
Family history aside, I eat far better and drink far less than I did back when I had that health screening, and my physical activity isn’t great but it’s still not non-existent. I know there are a few things I could be doing better (not being a fatass is one, changing my physical activity from “isn’t great” to “not prone to lazybones excuses every week” is another), but I’m still surprised and dismayed to know that a thing inside of my body isn’t working the way it should. I keep imagining my arteries as clogged with sludge and my heart straining under the pressure, which I’m sure isn’t good for a stress level but it’s really a “the call is coming from INSIDE the house” kind of situation.
In addition to making an exercise schedule (to be completed once the room stops spinning, which is totally not a lazybones excuse), I’m now writing weekly meal plans that hew to the DASH diet as much as possible. And diets in general are a pain in my ass. I eat, okay. It’s what I do. I’ve reviewed the materials and found that I kiiiiiiind of already follow the basic tenets, but I realize that I should make a few changes. Less salt, unfortunately. Less sugar, so there goes my once-weekly Mexican Coke allowance. More potassium, which means I’ll have to keep a few bananas in the house and hear Graham complain about them.
For me, it’s not so much a diet as it is a reinforcement of the eating habits I already know to be sound and mostly follow as long as Cheez-Its are not on sale. I do enjoy the calorie-saving tips, though, such as the below:
“Eat a ¼ cup of dried apricots instead of a 2-ounce bag of pork rinds. You’ll save 230 calories.”
No. Fucking. Way.
Italics courtesy of the NIH, as there’s no way I would ever think that piece of information would require emphasis. There’s not really any part of the DASH diet that I feel needs emphasis, because as far as I can tell, almost all of it can be boiled down to Hey, Don’t Eat Like a Goddamn Idiot.