An Exercise and Diet Battle with Borderline High Blood Pressure
An Unexpected Result
When the results came back the blood pressure numbers were much higher than expected. The smaller number basically represents the baseline or minimum pressure. A number of 94 came back which indicates that there is a looming problem. The higher number is the maximum pressure and again this number was a bit higher than it should be, 144. The surprise was due to the fact that there had never been an issue before, even 2 years prior the numbers were much lower.
In retrospect this shouldn't have been a surprise. Work stress was at an all time high with a threat of the plant being closed. Age was starting to play a factor as the mid forties were solidly in place. Exercise had reduced to zero for three years, mostly replaced with bad foods.
Call it denial or possibly stubborn behavior, but the prescription was never filled. Instead, a lengthy research process into the causes of high blood pressure was initiated. Reports indicated that salt, age, weight, and exercise were the factors that had aligned.
The options were clear, either fill the prescription or act fast in the right direction.
Dusting off the Bike
The mountain bike screamed for attention. After applying chain lube, a new seat, and changing the knobby tires to slicks, the bike was road ready. Pedaling the first few miles were exhausting, but once I slowed down a bit and stopped trying to rush through the 1/2 hour, I began to enjoy the ride and my breathing was easier.
With the pilot run out of the way I decided to chart a course to make a ride into work. I found a spot along the ocean about 10 miles from work.
The next day I set out for the ride in, giving myself an hour to make the 10 mile ride. I packed a spare set of clothes into a simple bag and bungee corded the bag to my newly purchased rack. The ocean waves hitting the shore and cool breeze greeted me and helped propel me forward. My cadence was slow but steady.
Cars seemed to be going by very fast, the whoosh startled me the first few times as some cars speed by on the two lane road at 50 miles per hour. I kept pushing. Within 30 minutes I was through DelMar and now I needed to make a left at a light just above Torrey Pines State Beach. I glanced over my left shoulder and bike went left suddenly, moving me into the lane. Jerking the bars back to the right, the bike was back in the bike lane in time to stay safe. I then turned my head slowly and the bike stayed smooth and in the bike lane. One more car and the way was open. I gave the left turn hand signal even through there was no car and made my way to the light and started down the single lane hill.
Pedaling fast down hill was fun, the air rushed by and my speed was almost as fast as the cars going by at 35 miles per hour. Rolling up to the side door 30 minutes later, I realized I did not feel very tired, a major accomplishment for the first day.
Test of Time
Well after eight weeks of riding this ride 3 times per week, I had ridden 6 hours per week for eight weeks for a total of 48 hours. I decided to check and see if there was any progress. I had made 2 purchases for this experiment at the local Rite Aid, a blood pressure monitor ($49) and a wrist watch heart monitor ($39).
I strapped on the blood pressure monitor and found my blood pressure measured 114/72, a perfectly normal number. I was shocked. I figured the machine must not have been on right and tested again. The number was a bit higher on the second test, 118/72!
I then had to take a break from riding due to changes at work. I cut back on salt to half the daily recommended max, reduced saturated fat, and eliminated fast foods. I did my best to ride at least once per week on the weekends. After 8 more weeks of my reduced riding schedule I checked my blood pressure again and was happy to see a 120/76. I had slipped a bit but for the most part my number held.
Looking back now, it has been 5 years. I have decided to reduce stress by cutting back on the hours. My diet is much better and exercise is more routine now. Taking this approach taught me that neglecting your body comes at a steep price. Fixing the problem is important, I am sure that if I was able to reduce my numbers without exercise and simply by taking a pill, my problems would have only grown.
Making the right choices makes all the difference
My pants went from a tight 44 to a comfortable 38, that alone was worth every bit of sweat. Riding twenty miles in one session became a regular thing. Heart rate and blood pressure dropped into a much better place. I was more relaxed and less stressed out.
All of this from just from doing some riding and eating better, amazingly simple and unbelievably effective.
Torrey Pines Sunset,San Diego
Effects of Calm Surroundings on your Ride
If you can fit in a partial ocean view, wooded trail or any remote area in your ride to work, do so! You will find the stresses of the day fading faster than you could ever pedal!