I have probably had high blood pressure for a long time. This is the story of how I found out.
In hindsight, I can identify many symptoms of high blood pressure, but I either ignored them or thought they were related to other things.
The major symptom I had was headaches. Most days I would either wake up with a headache or develop one. Some of them were real “head splitters” … occasionally I would have to lie down to stop the nausea. I remember often working in front of my computer and trying very hard not to move my head to avoid feeling sharp pains.
Since being diagnosed with high blood pressure and starting medication, I have not had one headache (around nine months now). My headaches were definitely due to my high blood pressure, but back then I thought they were due to stress, or poor posture due to sitting at a computer all day … or any number of things.
I had been told for years by doctors that my blood pressure was high, but that it was probably due to the “white coat” effect. Turns out it wasn’t. I went to a new doctor, and as she took my blood pressure, she had a very worried look on her face.
My systolic blood pressure reading was over 200.
She told me to go to hospital immediately and made me promise I would not ignore her warning. At the time I did think she was over-reacting, and I pictured myself sitting in the hospital emergency waiting room for a couple of hours, waiting for a doctor to see me, giving me a couple of pills to take, and heading home.
The actual story was very different.
I arrived at emergency and was given the standard “patient detail” form to fill out. Before I was 1/3 of the way through, a nurse turned up to take my blood pressure. She also got a worried look on her face, and took me straight to one of the emergency beds. This is in a hospital system famous for making people wait hours in emergency.
I had doctors all over me … injecting things, taking blood, scanning me and god knows what else.
My clearest memory of that day was suddenly feeling very light headed.
The doctor later told me that I “liked” a drug (I think it was hydralazine) he injected into me. I say “liked” because only a doctor could think I “liked” it. In about 30 seconds I went from feeling what I then considered normal, to being drenched in sweat, head spinning and throwing up my lunch. The nurses told me later that I was as white as a ghost.
I remember asking one of the emergency nurses if she thought I would be able to go home that night. She laughed.
I ended up spending 4 days in intensive care, and 6 days in the general hospital before they let me go home.
The quality of the care, the doctors and the nurses were all amazing. We have a free hospital system in Australia which sometimes gets a bad rep, but my experience was very positive.
They never found a cause … I just have high blood pressure. I take a fair bit of medication, and my blood pressure is now at normal levels.
My doctor told me to buy a blood pressure monitor and record my readings each day. Because I kept forgetting to take my readings, I wrote a software program to remind me. Below is a chart from that program of my readings:
As you can see from this chart my readings are now around 110-120 over 70-80. Much better, but more importantly, I feel a lot better … I had no idea that high blood pressure could make you feel so unwell.
If you also have high blood pressure I wish you well! (and if you have not seen a doctor about it, I highly recommend it … don’t leave it as late as I did … they can make you feel a lot better!)
It is now 6 years on, and the good news is that my readings have continued to be stable and in the “normal” range. I am still on medication, but I have made some lifestyle changes and continue to feel much better than I did in 2002/3.
I recently made a video that talks about what happened to me, as well as talking about my own blood pressure chart from 2004.