Lake Oswego, Oregon
As a strength and conditioning coach for athletes, I thought I was an unlikely candidate for stroke. I ran and lifted weights three times a week. My heart was fine, my cholesterol good. I felt great, but my blood pressure was high. I had known that for eight years, but the medication made me tired, and being a type A personality, I had no time for that. My blood pressure rose when I lifted weights, but it always went down afterwards, so I thought I was fine. At the gym one day, I held my breath as I lifted the weight. A cerebral vessel blew out and caused a bleed. It affected my left side, and I had difficulty walking.
Suddenly I was a type A personality with a type B body. Although I needed to slow down, I never felt sorry for myself. I knew I could retrain my body. I tried low-key exercises like tai chi and swimming, but got bored. I joined a fitness club to socialize. Recently, my cardiologist said I could do more strenuous exercise, so I started a hiking group. I still have a type A personality, but if my high blood pressure medication makes me tired, so be it. I never forget to take those pills. I don't want another stroke.
Before my stroke, I thought I was in great health. However, my doctor told me, “You were very sick because of your high blood pressure.” Even if you feel good, your body can deceive you. That's why it's so important to consult with your doctors and heed what they say. I don't mind the extra effort it takes to manage my high blood pressure because I'm reaching my goal — better health and greater risk reduction.