Fitness Friday: High Pressure

A few months ago Derek went for his regular annual physical and was told that he had borderline high blood pressure (HBP). This was a little surprising to both of us as we equated HBP with stress and other risk factors that he doesn’t have (or exhibit). WebMD describes the causes of HBP as:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical activity – he exercises vigorously a minimum of four, if not five or six times per week.
  • Too much alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day) - he has the occasional 2 drinks at dinner out on the weekend.
  • Stress – according to Derek he does not feel stressed; anyone who knows him would describe him as “laid-back”; we discussed the possibility of subconscious stress.
  • Older age
  • Genetics – can’t do much about this one
  • Family history of high blood pressure – We discovered a big YES on this one
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Adrenal and thyroid disorders
  • Too much salt in the diet – a good one to attack wholeheartedly
  • White coat syndrome
So, with this information in hand, we went about attacking the salt in his diet (I like salt and have low blood pressure so I wasn’t about to change my diet!):
Biggest sources of hidden sodium in his diet:
  • Salad dressing: Home-made or store-bought
  • Breakfast Cereal: Kashi Go-Lean is guilty
  • Bread – yes, a single slice of bread has 10% of the recommended daily sodium intake
  • Deli meat: not so hidden, but part of his diet before he changed it up
  • Cheese
The big changes:
  • Breakfast now consists of Shredded Wheat, the lone national brand low-sodium cereal, fruit and milk with a cup of tea.
  • Lunch and daytime snacks have now changed from turkey sandwiches and salads with cheese to salads with home-made sodium free dressing, much less cheese, and home-made bread.
  • I bought a bread-maker at Derek’s request (on Kijiji – they are a dime and dozen) and have been experimenting with various recipes. The last one was the biggest hit – I’ll share it in a separate post. It’s not salt-free, as those attempts tasted like cardboard, but it’s much lower in sodium than store-bought bread.
  • Dinner is whatever is on the family menu, but I cook/prepare without adding salt now, and add at the end for myself and/or the boys, if really required.
The doctor also suggested to Derek that he cut back on caffeine from a couple of cups of tea and a few Coke Zeros to one cup of tea. He has made this change.
Six weeks passed
Derek went back to have his blood pressure checked. It was essentially unchanged. Uuugh!
We kept at it, trying to eliminate even more sodium (to about 800 mg per day; try it, it’s hard). He added some additional very low intensity walking to his days as recommended in the literature.
Another six weeks passed
Another appointment; another high/normal reading. Essentially no change. This time the doctor suggests Derek get a home blood pressure monitor like one of these:

Derek started taking daily readings at home. They are normal, a little on the higher end of normal, but in the normal range. He is recording them daily for a month. He has white coat syndrome.

He is still watching his sodium and caffeine intake now that we know he is in the high normal range and has a family history, but we are feeling somewhat relieved.

He still has a follow-up appointment with the doctor to show her his findings. I’m pretty certain she’ll tell him to continue to take periodic, though less frequent readings, and to continue what he’s doing with his lifestyle.

I’m proud of the changes he’s made and the earnestness with which he’s treated this potentially serious condition. Undiagnosed and untreated, high blood pressure is a life-threatening illness.

Now the usual Fitness Friday stuff: This week I tried something new. I noticed that my moods are very cyclical (sound familiar anyone?). I have also noticed that I am in a much better mood on days I run. So, this week was, on my personal calendar, a week that I am often moody. I decided to try running more frequently to see if it made a difference.

It did! Derek even commented last evening that I’ve been in a very good mood this week (he doesn’t even realize it would have been a “traditionally” bad week for my moods).

I’m thinking that running 5 days a week is probably not always going to be possible, or a good thing, but I’m going to try to do it again next month.

Running Rundown

Everything is posted in km. For those of you who only do miles, 1 km = .625 mile OR 1 mile = 1.6 km

Saturday – 14.75 km run – part with group and part on my own

Monday – 6.5 km recovery run

Tuesday – 11.5 km speed run 3 km warm-up; 5 x 2 min fast:1 min acceleration: 4 min rest; cool-down

Wednesday – 5 km easy run

Thursday – 7 km – tempo(ish) run at speeds between 5:07 km/h and 5:25 km/h (that’s why I added the -ish)

Cross Training 

Wednesday: Strength work at home

Friday: Vinyasa yoga

I’ll leave you with that yummy bread recipe I promised:

100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
adapted from Cookie Baker Lynn

Makes three 1.5 lb loaves

3 c lukewarm water (you could substitute milk/almond or coconut milk for half
1 1/2 Tbsp granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
1/2 Tbsp sea salt
1/2 c honey
5 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (I used canola)
6 2/3 c whole wheat flour

1. If making in bread-maker, add ingredients in order specified for your machine. Knead and remove from machine. You could do the whole cycle in here, but I prefer to bake in the oven for three lighter, fluffier loaves rather than one dense one. Remove and proceed to step 4.

2. If mixing by hand, mix the yeast, salt, honey, and oil with the lukewarm water a in a 5-quart bowl or a lidded, not airtight food container.

3. Using a spoon, food processor with dough attachment, or a stand mixer, mix in the whole wheat flour without kneading the mixture.

4. Cover the mixture, and allow it to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flatten on top); approximately 2 to 3 hours.

5. Although the dough can be used after it has risen and collapsed, the authors state that the mixture is easier to handle when it is cold. Refrigerate it in a lidded, not airtight container and use over the next 5 days. After the five days, put the dough in the freezer for up to 1 month. I made one loaf with the fresh dough and it was just fine.

6. On baking day, lightly grease a 9x4x3-inch nonstick loaf pan. Using wet hands, scoop out a 1 1/2-pound (cantaloupe-size) handful of dough. With wet hands, quickly shape the dough into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

6. Drop the loaf into the prepared pan filling it slightly more than half-full.

7. Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Flour and slash the top of the loaf using the tip of a serrated bread knife.

8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 5 minutes, if not using a stone; otherwise, preheat the oven 20 minutes before baking time.

9. Place the loaf on a rack near the center of the oven. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door. Bake the loaf for 50 to 60 minutes or until deeply browned and firm.

10. Allow to cool completely before slicing in order to cut reasonable sandwich slices.


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