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Saturday, January 7, 2012


Most of my simple solutions are, actually, just the contrary, for there are legal, moral and other factors that make resolution almost impossible.  Regarding high blood pressure, or hypertension, though, there could well be a true simple solution, and you'll be surprised at this medical breakthrough.  I'll return to this solution, but if you want to skip the whole story, go to the bold section below.  The following is mostly a message to my personal doctor.

Everything came to a head this week through a frightening, and still continuing, series of events.  Tuesday morning my golf group learned that one of our regulars had amnesia.  We later found out that the ailment was Trans Global Amnesia.  He temporarily (only for a few hours) lost his memory and was rushed to a hospital.  The good news is that TGA is a one time incident.  This should not happen again, and he indicated to me that he would be golfing this coming Tuesday.

His blood pressure was taken and it was in the range of 200/110.  This spurred me to check my pressure.  To my shock, it was 165/95, which is 20 points higher than normal.  I had not done this for many, many months, but I remembered that over the weekend holiday period I ate a whole lot of foodstuffs saturated with salt:  salmon and cod eggs, sashimi with a lot of shoyu/wasabi, and so on.   Later that night, I had an evening night cap of port wine, and the pressure jumped to 195/110.  If TGA struck, I could be doomed, as I live alone.  This was Day 1.

On Day 2 I went on a treadmill, then into a sauna and avoided any salt in my meals.  I checked my pressure in the mid-afternoon, and the measurement dropped to 140/80.  Must have been the salt, I thought.  The average person should consume no more than a teaspoon of salt (2300 mg).  Unfortunately, most of the salt you eat comes from processed foods, as for example, a cup of cream style corn has 720 mg of salt.  One tablespoon of soy sauce has about 1000 mg, while ketchup has 178 mg.

On Day 3, I golfed with this same group and one person said he had vertigo and this might have been related to blood pressure.  A second, though, indicated he and his wife need to ingest extra salt, so people are indeed different.  Having avoided alcohol and sodium for the second straight day, in the late afternoon I measured at 169/97, again too high.  I tried the alcohol test again at night with two ounces of white wine, and the pressure jumped to 197/100.  Am I allergic to ethanol?  That would be a tragedy.  This was certainly a depressing day.

I took another measurement at noon of Day 4 and saw 150/90, so, while high, at least not life threatening, and this was after having brunch with some salt, but no alcohol.  I then went golfing again and I found out that two of my golf partners that day each experienced a version of TGA, but only for short periods (seconds and minutes).  Maybe there is a correlation between golf and TGA.  High blood pressure was associated with both incidents, and one was driving when this occurred.  Finally, after dinner of little salt and no alcohol, my blood pressure dropped to 136/82.  I also noted that my weight had decreased by 3 pounds because of frequent urination.  I'm about back to normal.  Maybe there is hope.

Since Day 2 I raised my Avalide dosage from 6.25 to 12.5 mg, the prescribed amount.  I've been taking this pill for almost ten years, and originally made do with a fourth of a pill, than for several years now, half.  Avalide is a combination of a diuretic (stimulates disposal of water from your body) and an angiotensin (prevents absorption of salt, while enlarging blood vessels). 

Another thought occurred to me was that maybe this last batch of Avalide was defective or different.  I noticed my container said Avalide 300 (left), but there is also an Avalide 150 (right).  I just started on this latest buy two weeks ago.  In any case, you would think that medical science and those pharmaceutical companies must have developed a more efficient pill by now.

I am thus on Day 5, at the stage of still wondering what best to do.  Certainly, I'll reduce sodium from my diet.  I'll now and then check on the ethanol effect just to make sure that factor is real. I notice that hunger tends to increase my pressure, so I should be careful about that.  My BMI (Body Mass Index) is 24.3, and you want to be below 25, so, okay.  

I wonder how heart rate affects pressure, as I noticed that at my highest measurement of pressure, my heart rate was a rather low 49 (normally in the low 60's).  My engineering sense tells me that if the rate is slow, then the pressure must be higher to supply the body with adequate blood.  But this means that the controlling mechanism is not the pressure, but the heart rate, which might call for a pacemaker.

My last blood check of glucose level was less than 99, which is the mark at which one begins to worry about diabetes.  I have no stresses at all, except for this current worry.  In fact, I feel great, walked 18 holes at the Pali Golf Course today, took a bath and on this Day 5 saw my blood pressure drop to  115/78, with a pulse rate of 76.  Rate high because 18 holes at Pali is an ordeal.  Oh, my weight dropped the lowest in decades.  I wonder if alcohol deprivation helped to attain a level I've wanted to reach for a long time?

I'll refer my doctor to this blog site, and if he finds time to look at this, he now has more information than he needs for my appointment with him later this month.

Everyone knows what hypertension is, but let me tell you, anyway.  There are two measurements, systolic (higher #) and diastolic (lower #), but I won't go into details, such as these numbers represent millimeters of mercury.
Blood Pressure Guidelines
Normal<120AND< 80
Pre-Hypertension121-139 OROR80-89
Hypertension Stage I140-159OR90-99
Hypertension Stage II> 160OR>100

120/80 or lower is normal and good.  140/90 and higher is bad, for your heart is working harder to push your blood through your circulatory system.  The heart is struggling because maybe something is blocking the way.  Over time my heart has enlarged, possibly because of this condition.  Higher pressures mean that you are at risk for stroke, heart failure, aneurysm, kidney disease and a shortened life expectancy.

The current (9January2012) issue of Time magazine has an article by Dr. Mehmet Oz.  He says that the optimal blood pressure is 115/75, 25% of Americans have hypertension, and a breakthrough treatment will soon be available in Europe, where radio-frequency energy is used to disable a few select nerves in the kidneys (yes, you have two).  This was general knowledge in the 1930's, but drugs came along and the then invasive surgery was termed risky.  These blood pressure meds come with potentially significant side effects:  weight gain, fatigue, kidney complications, liver problems and impotence.  

Now, the scalpel can be replaced with a catheter inserted through the femoral (large arteries in the thigh) artery, threaded to the exact spot where these nerves are located, and zapped with electricity.  The device, called, appropriately enough, the Simplicity Catheter System, costs a little more than $10,000 and was invented by Ardian,* a company headquartered in Mountain View, California.  Thus, the cost of treatment should be reasonable, but to be first applied in Europe because their approval process is swifter.  The success rate was 84% and nearly half of those at 160 systolic experienced blood pressures returning to normal levels.  There were no serious complications.  Trials will begin in the USA this year.  Hmm....perhaps I can volunteer, especially if that ethanol problem persists.

*Ardian was purchased by Medtronic for $800 million.  Medtronic, now the world's largest medical technology company, was founded by Earl Bakken, who lives on the Big Island.  He has been sending me a Christmas card now for a quarter century.  Maybe I should someday send him one.  The company started in 1949 to build basketball pumps, but switched to a pacemaker.  Blood pressure drugs, incidentally, cost $30 billion/year.


kaney said...

Blood pressure can be defined as the force exerted during heartbeats on the arteries. Blood pressure differs from person to person. It can change with time also. Blood pressure can be one thing in the mornings and at night it can be different.



Yes, this what doctors say, but they don't say why the pressure varies. Click on my later posting:

which explains that hunger is the primary problem, which surprised me, and that your blood pressure is highest when you just awake...but for good reason, as explained in that article. This why most heart attacks occur when you just wake up. Doctors don't tell you that, and they should, because there are several things you can do to minimize personal danger.

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Alex Neil said...

I heard that a diet high in sodium and low in potassium can cause high blood pressure, so cutting down on salt and eating foods high in potassium could help control or even reverse this disease.