The si­lent killer

Stacy Wright’s bat­tle with hy­per­ten­sion

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

“IALWAYS as­sumed high blood pres­sure (HBP) was a dis­ease for the elderly. I never thought it would hap­pen to me.” That was what Stacy Wright be­lieved. In 2010, at age 28, she got a rude awak­en­ing. Stacy was of­fi­cially di­ag­nosed with high blood pres­sure.

“When I was di­ag­nosed, I was deal­ing with a very stress­ful sit­u­a­tion and was suf­fer­ing from panic at­tacks. I fig­ured all those things trig­gered my pres­sure to go up,” Wright said.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO), most peo­ple with hy­per­ten­sion have no symp­toms at all. This is why it is known as the ‘si­lent killer’.

Some­times, hy­per­ten­sion causes symp­toms such as headaches, short­ness of breath, dizzi­ness, chest pains, pal­pi­ta­tions of the heart, and nose bleeds, but not al­ways.

MED­I­CAL HIS­TORY

Wright said that when she re­layed her med­i­cal his­tory to her doc­tor, he re­minded her that her blood pres­sure, based on pre­vi­ous read­ings over the past two years, were con­sis­tently high, and was prob­a­bly high even be­fore then. He rec­om­mended that she take med­i­ca­tions to con­trol her blood pres­sure.

“Nat­u­rally, I was up­set that I had this con­di­tion to deal with, but I was more trau­ma­tised at the idea of tak­ing pills ev­ery day for the rest of my life.

“I thought it was in­evitable, and there wasn’t any­thing I could do about it.

But de­spite this, Wright was not about to al­low the spike in her blood pres­sure to de­ter her from liv­ing a full life. She de­cided to take con­trol of her health.

“I was deter­mined to get my health back on track and fig­ured out how to ‘cure’ this dis­ease. Based on my re­search, age, weight, salt in­take, and ge­net­ics are some of the risk fac­tors for de­vel­op­ing this dis­ease. The only thing I could change was my weight and the type of foods I ate,” Wright said.

She de­scribed her­self as be­ing rel­a­tively ac­tive grow­ing up – swim­ming and play­ing ten­nis from prep school to high school. As she got older, she started go­ing to the gym and tak­ing aer­o­bics classes and us­ing the tread­mill or el­lip­ti­cal. But de­spite her ef­forts, she was still over­weight.

“I tried ev­ery diet un­der the sun, like the cab­bage soup diet, Atkins, South Beach Diet, what­ever diet you can think of, I tried it,” Wright said.

Her di­et­ing only worked for a short while, how­ever, as her weight even­tu­ally came back. “At my heav­i­est, I was 260lb. By the time I was di­ag­nosed with high blood pres­sure, I was around 200lb.”

At this point, her fo­cus had changed from los­ing weight to be­com­ing healthy, she said. Slowly, she be­gan cut­ting out pro­cessed foods, high salt con­tent and added sugar out of her diet and be­gan eat­ing more fruits and veg­eta­bles.

“I be­came very strict, al­most mil­i­tant about what I ate. If I ate out at restau­rant, I en­sured that my meal was pre­pared with no added salt. At home, my food was sep­a­rated from every­one else’s as mine was jok­ingly the ‘taste­less ver­sion’,” Wright said.

At the same time, she kept ex­er­cis­ing and tak­ing her med­i­ca­tion as di­rected by her doc­tor. “I was so fo­cused on be­com­ing healthy that the

en­tire process seemed easy.”

Her only dif­fi­culty was that she suf­fered con­stantly from the side ef­fects of her med­i­ca­tions – nau­sea, rashes, dizzy spells, and ir­reg­u­lar heart­beats. She said that she had to change her med­i­ca­tion nu­mer­ous times be­cause it made her ill, or it wasn’t work­ing to lower her blood pres­sure.

“I switched from tak­ing one pill a day to three dif­fer­ent pills per day. I vis­ited my doc­tor ev­ery week for a month, then switched to ev­ery four months for reg­u­lar check-ups,” she noted.

LESS MED­I­CA­TION

In 2012, she weighed 147lb and was down to tak­ing two pills per day. She said, how­ever, she still ex­pe­ri­ences skipped heart­beats, but not as fre­quently. To­day, at the age of 35, she still con­tin­ues to take two dif­fer­ent med­i­ca­tions. How­ever, her dosage is lower than it was two years ago.

“I am so proud that I am slowly wean­ing my­self off med­i­ca­tion, though it has taken me longer than I ini­tially planned, but I’m not giv­ing up. My blood pres­sure, over the years, has been con­sis­tently un­der con­trol,” she said.

“I try to ex­er­cise 4-5 days a week, which has helped me keep off my weight. I still make mis­takes, even gained back a few pounds, but I will never give up,” a deter­mined Wright stated.

The WHO states that more than one in five adults world­wide have raised blood pres­sure – a con­di­tion that causes around half of all deaths from stroke and heart dis­ease. Com­pli­ca­tions from hy­per­ten­sion ac­count for 9.4 mil­lion deaths world­wide ev­ery year.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTOS

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