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Work Stress

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the My Blood Pressure Newsletter. If you are interested in having your blood pressure story told, please email Kellie or Steve at support@my-health-software.com.

My Story – Ken Pykett

Kellie’s note: The following account of Ken’s blood pressure was written by Ken’s wife:


There is a certain amount of background information that seems relevant to Ken’s blood pressure problems. Retrospectively it is clear to me that he had been under a good deal of stress since about 2000 – my own involvement in a road traffic accident and extended hospital treatment, the illnesses of a couple of close relatives, work-related stress and other factors probably too complicated to mention. A significant change to our circumstances occurred when almost immediately on our return from a holiday in Egypt he went down with a very unpleasant mystery virus; within a couple of days of returning to work he injured his lower back when moving a laptop computer from the seat of his vehicle. This was diagnosed initially as sciatica and was treated by a combination of rest and visits to a chiropractor. We have never been sure whether the virus and the onset of other problems were related or not.

However his lower back pain continued to worsen and Ken suffered a period of long term sickness interspersed with unsuccessful attempts to return to work, various diagnoses, investigations and attempts at treatment. Understandably this did little to relieve his work-related stress levels and as he was forbidden to drive by the occupational health unit he began a period of home-based working. About two years ago, I guess, he was still trying to seek a resolution to the back pain problems and visited a consultant who recommended “pain reproduction studies” as a means of pinning down the source of the problems.

Nobody could have blood pressure that high and live!

On attendance for the “pain reproduction” operation Ken’s blood pressure was taken as a routine part of the procedure. However at the first attempt the machine had to be changed because the nursing staff believed it was broken because “nobody could have blood pressure that high and live!” However the second machine suffered the same “fault” so an old-fashioned sphygmomanometer was used which confirmed that his BP was indeed ridiculously high. The operation did isolate the site of the back pain problems but did not provide a solution or prospective treatment, so Ken was referred back to his GP with no prospect of relief from the back pain but also now a serious blood pressure problem.

He was fairly quickly given a prescription by his GP to control his blood pressure. It was either beta-blockers or calcium channel antagonists; I cannot now remember which came first! However this had little effect and very quickly he was on both types of medication at much higher dosages, still with little effect apparently. Certainly within six weeks of the initial prescription he began to suffer from additional worrying symptoms including chest, arm and shoulder pains, tingling and lack of sensitivity in the finger tips, and deterioration in his vision. Further visits to the GP resulted and more tests, and at this point it was also decided that he was diabetic. It was also suggested that the original condition could well be fibromyalgia although it was not a classic or complete manifestation of typical fibro symptoms.

Ken worked hard to reduce his weight (which admittedly had increased since the initial back problem due to the impossibility of taking any significant exercise) and control his diet. It was hoped that this would improve both the fibro symptoms and the suggested diabetes. However although he lost a lot of weight his condition did not improve which was very disheartening. Towards the end of that year also he was under significant pressure from his line manager regarding his lack of return to work and inability to conform to certain strict conditions of work that had been set despite Ken’s protection under the Disability Discrimination act. These also contributed to increase his stress levels. By the end of that year I was seriously worried about his mental state of health and the knock-on physical effect of this. At some time during this period – I cannot again remember exactly when – the nurse practitioner who was monitoring his blood pressure changed his prescription to include Ramipril, an ACE inhibitor, which did appear to make a significant contribution to lowering his blood pressure although still not sufficient.

After a very unpleasant and worrying Christmas 2004 things came to a head with Ken’s employer (the line manager having hinted at dismissal) and the end result was that Ken took a voluntary redundancy package as they were unwilling to allow retirement due to medical conditions. Very slowly over a period of months following this Ken’s mental state began to improve, although there was no further improvement in his physical symptoms. The blood pressure remained at an improved but not really acceptable level. The tingling and insensitivity remained along with the fibromyalgia symptoms although it was acknowledged that the diabetes was probably “borderline”.

Less stress = Lower Blood Pressure

As a further year passed, now without the work-related stress, and a couple of holidays as well, Ken’s mental state and also his blood pressure began to settle down. It has now reached a level where is it is continually quite low and he often suffers from tiredness and dizziness, maybe because it is now too low? Occasionally there is a blip if something stressful happens and it is possible to link his blood pressure readings quite closely with events like buying a house for our children, or me undergoing a school inspection!

What concerns us now is that, prompted by discussions with our daughter who is a medical student, we feel that the blood pressure medication was probably administered in the “wrong” order and should have started with the ACE inhibitors (which were the only ones that really had any effect.) It seems likely that the tingling and lack of sensation (peripheral neuropathy) could have been triggered by the use of the Calcium channel antagonists since the onset was so close to their start. It appears to us also that quite a lot of the later-appearing “fibro” symptoms could also be side effects of the beta-blockers. Certainly we have been led to believe that diabetics should not be prescribed co-tenidone. So now we are asking ourselves whether the blood pressure treatment regime should be reviewed, under monitoring, and some of the medication removed to see whether any symptoms can be reduced without suffering a corresponding increase in blood pressure.

Ken Writes:

I was going to produce this document but my wife has summed up the situation in a far more succinct manner. I actually bought the monitoring software as every visit to the GP results in readings that are well above my normal readings. I now have a chart and database with which to persuade them to reduce some of the medication. I am hoping that this will in turn remove some of the conditions that are more than likely to be a result of the drugs I am taking.

Kellie’s note: Ken also sent me a chart of his blood pressure and a follow up note.

blood pressure chart
Click here to view full size

… remember that 4 years ago the systolic reading exceeded the hospital’s machines capabilities, and hence they thought their machine was faulty and located another only to find the same result. My daughter now a 3rd year medic has since told me how serious this was as I had no concept how serious this condition could be. I’ve also sent another chart with a few notes. Notice the spikes generated by before and after medication. I only started regular checking in April after my holiday. It was a bit of an eye opener but intend to use this as evidence at my next GP visit to try and reduce the number of drugs I am taking. The high intermittent pulse rates are inexplicable but occur often but at a reduced rate to previous. I’m confused but I’m hoping to resolve things in time. I’ve started growing orchids and tropical plants, great for relaxation.

Kellie’s note: Thank you to Ken and his wife for sharing this story, and enjoy the gardening!


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About Kellie

Kellie is 37 years old and together with her brother Steve makes up the My Health Software team.

She helps on the websites and gathering news for the programs. Kellie worked in the medical industry prior to having her two children (8 and 6) and has a strong interest in self awareness and management of health conditions.