Today, I discovered that an important milestone had gone by unnoticed. Two years and five days ago, my life abruptly changed. A small blood clot made its way through miles of veins and capillaries and lodged somewhere deep in the left side of my brain, flicking switches that were better left un-flicked. I had a stroke—technically a Transient Ischemic Attack, or TIA. They refer to this as a “mini-stroke,” but there is nothing “mini” about something that interrupts the blood flow to part of your brain and starts shutting down parts of your body.
I wrote about this event two days after it happened. People asked me, “Weren’t you scared?” The truth is, I wasn’t; even though I could have been incapacitated for the rest of my life, I was more interested in the procedures going on around me than in what kind of dire outcome there might have been.
The cause of this medical adventure was simple—and very common. High blood pressure (around 190/105 for those of you who like specifics) and moderately high cholesterol. That is a bad combination. Fortunately, because I got medical attention early, there has been no long-term damage. Now I take four pills every day—two for blood pressure, one for cholesterol and an aspirin to prevent future clots.
The most positive aspect of all this has been that I take my health seriously these days. Apart from taking those four little pills, I created a habit of exercising every day: two days in the gym with a trainer, walking/running a couple of miles the other days. The results have been gratifying: I have lost about 25 pounds without starving myself, and my blood pressure is typically 124/65—pretty much the numbers for a much younger dude. The doctor has been tapering off many of the medications I have been taking.
Here’s my real message: aside from my joy at being alive and vertical, I now realize that high blood pressure is a serious disease. It has no symptoms, and for many people, the first indication is a stroke or heart attack. Get checked.
And for those who say, “One of these days I’ll start exercising,” make it today. Even a short walk.
I’ll go with you.