Willingness to take responsibility for my health or how I recovered from 25 years of hypertension
Modern medicine is amazing. It is somewhat frightening to imagine what the world would look like without it. At the same time medicine says many things and states them as facts. I have found from my own experience that they do not always get this right and that whatis stated as an undisputable fact is not only on occasions incorrect but that the opposite is the case. My experience with dementia is one such case where the medical profession states that dementia cannot be curedand yet I had travelled a long way down the dementia road for it is a road and not simply a destination, and then recovered myself from it by making various changes in my lifestyle.
Recently I have recovered from another “incurable” illness, which is high blood pressure or hypertension.
Blood Pressure UK say in answer to the question “Can I get rid of my high blood pressure?”:
If you have high blood pressure that is being caused by another health problem (secondary hypertension), it might be possible to get rid of your high blood pressure. By successfully treating the underlying cause of your problems, your blood pressure may then return to normal.
If, on the other hand, you are in the 90 per cent of people with high blood pressure that is not being caused by another health problem, the answer is "no". Unfortunately, people with this type of high blood pressure (essential hypertension) cannot be cured. Because there is no underlying cause for the high blood pressure, there is nothing that can be fixed to resolve it.
I first started to register with high blood pressure (essential hypertension type) around the age of 40, which was 30 years ago at the time of this writing,but it was not until I was in my early 50s that I was put onto medication for it and I was toldthat this medication would be for the rest of my life. The medication was good and it did a great job of keeping my blood pressure lowered.
After about 15 years of taking the same medication my wife encouraged me to start taking readings of my blood pressure daily and to keep a track of what might be the triggers that raised it. I soon discovered that if I had any anxiety this would raise my BP despite the medication. So, I looked deeper at this and started to understand that this anxiety was generated by me and since this was the case and I was the creator, surely I was the one who could change it. During this time I was still taking the daily BP medication, then after a few months of tracking my blood pressure twice daily I asked myself the question whether I still needed the medication.
So, I went to my GP and suggested to them that I put myself on a three-month plan which was as follows. In month one, I take the medication then after month one I stop the medication and throughout the three months I monitor my BP twice daily and use the average of the two readings to plot a graph of the BP over the three-month period. Three months later I made another visit to see my GP and presented the three months of data and the graph showing no increase in the blood pressure readings during months two and three with the medication withdrawn. My GP agreed with my proposal that I could stop taking the medication. This was around three years ago and whenever my blood pressure has been tested since the readings have continued to be fine.
As with the dementia experience, whatthis has demonstratedto me is that it is possible to heal things that the medical profession believe we cannot. I feel that the reason they believe this is because it must be very rare if not virtually unheard of for anyone to recover from either of these conditions, but could that be because very few of us are willing to make the necessary changes to our lifestylesin order to enable the body to recover?
The ridiculous thing is that for most of my adulthood years I knew that I was compromising my health with the choices I was making such as alcohol drinking, over eating, living in constant stress, engaging in silly conversations, gossips and meaningless stories, indulging in various emotions such as frustration and resentment, not exercising etc etc. And yet for the most part I preferred to keep making these same choices I knew well were harming me and opting for asking NHS to fix me when the body would break down. It was not until I showed genuine willingness to start to take responsibility for the body that is so great at serving to get me around that I started to make a significant shift in my health and well-being.
So, what were these life-changing changes that I made to my lifestyle?
A big one for sure was alcohol. I had indulged in alcohol virtually every day from my late teens until I was 57 and each time my liver had sent me a message that I was poisoning it, I was very good at ignoring these messages. Then the day arrived when I simply knew beyond any doubt that the alcohol was seriously harming me and continuing consuming it was going to inevitably lead to serious health issues. On that very day I said to myself that “never again another drop will pass my lips”. Although I would have said I loved alcohol, an illusion that would in time expose itself and how often we like to entertain it, I have never had the slightest desire to go back to alcohol again. At the same time, my weight had crept up over the years and I was carrying a lot of spare kilos around my tummy and hips not to mention a beer gut. The years of indulgence meant that my heart and organs were struggling under all the extra load.
Then, over the next couple of years, I started to observe how my body reacted to different foods and if such a reaction occurred, I would try removing the food that I felt caused the reaction from my diet and see what happened. Once I chose to be more aware, I quickly discovered that gluten and dairy products had adverse effects, so I cut both out of my diet and soon started to just naturally return to my normal weight without any dieting whatsoever.
I also started to address my checking out episodes and working to become more present moment to moment. This is covered more fully in my blogs about dementia, so I won’t go into the details here except to say that this enabled me to be more in my body and less in my head, which certainly helped me with reducing anxiety. As I mentioned earlier by observing myself very closely and by being much more honest with myself than I had ever been before, I had discovered that there was a connection between anxiety and my essential hypertension and also, I had come to see that anxiety was not something imposed on me but rather something that I did to myself.
I realised that it was important to find out why I did this and that how to stop doing it would then be clearer. I suspect that we all have different games going on that would trigger anxiety but for me it generally started with having a thought that I was in some way not enough, that I wouldn’t be able to deal with something that was coming up, or even worse that I would stuff it up etc. From this initial thought usually a flood of thoughts would come all of which undermined me and made me feel less. The realisation that I was doing all this or at least allowing it enabled me to see that I could change it.
A big part of changing this seemingly out-of-control negative thoughts avalanche was coming to understand that I can choose to be in my body rather than my head which in turned helped me develop greater level of presence and in that greater presence my awareness of the thoughts coming in grew and I grasped that all I had to say to myself when such a thought came in was “that’s not true”. This cuts the thought and stops it growing into the many undermining thoughts that used to overwhelm me. So by addressing the constant critic inside me, my sense of self-worth grew and grew and I began to accept and appreciate how amazing I was. All of this has contributed to me today, at 70, being more healthy and vital than ever, working full time in a job that is very physical and loving both my work and my life.
There is no doubt of the body’s amazing ability to deal with the abuse that we hand out to it and its ability to recover, but at the same time there is a limit to what it can handle and when we reach that limit illness and disease seem the inevitable result. A large percentage of illness and disease is lifestyle related and in reality, changing one’s lifestyle is not that hard if we can overcome our stubbornness and start to be at least open to making alterations if not eventually experimenting with changing things.
Taking responsibility for how we live is worth it in every way and in return our body does show us its gratitude.