System Restore—It’s not just for Computers

How knowing your blood pressure can help you to make changes
by Olivia Rossi

Your Personal Trainer

“System restore” is a function of your computer that allows you to revert your system to the way it was at a previous time without losing personal data files. How many times have you said “I’d love to be twenty again and know what I know now?” I’d settle for forty! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do it with the stroke of a computer key?

I had a “system restore” moment a couple of months ago, a wake-up call that really shocked me. My blood pressure was high. Me. A cardiac rehab nurse. This was not good. Indeed, it could seriously damage my reputation not to mention my health! My weight was up, too. There was no denying it—my jeans were getting snug and I felt like a slug! Winter doldrums? Slacking off? OK, I’m human. I have feet of clay and hips of lard! But I had a feeling that there was more to it, so I set off to do some detective work and address some things that I could change. I tapped my “system restore” key . . .

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, has many causes–extra weight, lack of exercise, high sodium intake. I’m not overweight but was over my usual poundage. I’ve always exercised and I keep my sodium intake at a minimum. What’s left? Family history is a positive risk factor for me since both my mom and my sister have it. Another big one, especially for me, is stress. Yes–I have a worrisome nature. I have a brain that doesn’t shut down at night. Insomnia and anxiety can lead to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. At other times, the cause of hypertension can be elusive.

I’m taking care of what I can. My own “system restore” has helped me restore my weight to what it was at age forty, ten pounds and twenty-three years ago. I have added an extra day of exercise and am eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, especially celery which can have some blood pressure lowering benefits when combined with other dietary changes. What perfect timing—the Farmers’ Market is back! I plan to go early and often! I have also been listening to guided imagery CDs to help me relax. They work. And while I can’t get new genes I did have to get new jeans! I now have my own blood pressure cuff to keep track of trends—happily it is trending downward.

I’m a nurse. I take blood pressures all day and counsel patients about theirs. I rarely get mine taken because I rarely go to the doctor. You can’t “feel” high blood pressure. I just assumed that mine was fine. It always has (oops, had) been. To re-coin a phrase, I guess I should say: “Nurse, heal thyself.”

Activate your own “system restore” function. Be aware and don’t assume anything. Have your blood pressure checked by your doctor when you have an appointment. You can have it taken at a drug store between visits or consider buying your own monitor to use at home. Blood pressures vary throughout the day so don’t just take one reading and assume it’s too low, too high or just right. Know your numbers and stay informed. If you notice an increasing trend, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss some measures to help decrease it.

For your information, the current American Heart Association guidelines for blood pressure are as follows:

Normal: Less than 120/80
Pre-hypertension: 120/80 – 139/89
Stage I hypertension: 140/90 – 159/99
Stage II hypertension: Greater than or equal to 160/100

Remember, blood pressure varies throughout the day. Exercise increases blood pressure while you are exercising. It often returns to a level lower than it was before you started exercising. That is one of the long term benefits of exercise. Knowing your numbers can be a powerful motivator to begin the process of restoring your system to a healthier you.

Note: If you are interested in learning more about dietary approaches to reducing hypertension, I recommend the book, THE DASH DIET Action Plan by Marla Heller, MS, RD. DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.”

Yours in fitness,
Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM

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