October 19, 2011 by rsadmin

Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover

I grew up as a tomboy, a wanna-be jock, a hyper-competitive point-me-at-the-goal-and-I'll-run-over-anyone-to-get-there kind of gal. Needless to say, that competitive fire has followed me through my adult life and been the spark that helped me co-found a company and embrace the entrepreneurial moniker. But, I've also checked off the boxes on some other milestones.

  • Freshman 15 (& adult 20+)? Check
  • Aching joints as I entered my 30's? Check
  • Speed demon rep slowing down a bit on the soccer pitch? Double check
  • Increasing pants sizes and a bit of mid-section softness? Check :-(

Vanity drove me to suck it in, down Advil to compensate for muscle and joint strain & pain, avoid doctor appointments for the usual pains of getting older, and like many of my generational peers - try out various diets from time to time. Problem always was... I. LOVE. FOOD. I mean, I really love it. Heck, I'm a food blogger in my other life who espouses the wonderful attributes of bacon, charcuterie, cheese and pasta. Cutting back and being disciplined about what makes me happy? No way.

Through it all, whenever I talked about getting in better shape - for vanity or other reasons - supportive friends, colleagues and peers always said 'But you look great!' or 'You are so young and look even younger.'

A wake-up call this week drove home the point that you can't judge a book by its cover.

As I blogged about earlier - Red Sky is a proud partner in this year's Go Red For Women event on November 3 in Boise. We are helping to spread the word about the free BetterU program designed to makeover your heart and educate participants on heart healthy lifestyle.

I'm a big believer in practicing what you preach, modeling behavior and never asking others to do things you wouldn't. So when the program recommended getting a checkup from your doc to set baselines on your key numbers I sucked it up and scheduled an appointment I'd been avoiding.

I've been having chest pain for several months. Dull, aching pain on the upper left side of my chest. It was easy to dismiss and ignore. I'm 35 and look alright for my age, what could be the matter? Yes, I'm stressed every day but who isn't? Work by it's nature is stressful and I've always thrived in that environment. But like I said in my last, now prophetic, post - It always starts out like a normal day until… it’s not. There is always something more important that focusing on yourself…until you’re faced with no other option.

I'm a 35 year old woman and as of two days ago I've been placed on high-blood pressure medication and ordered to make significant changes to my lifestyle. Two hours of poking and prodding, chest x-rays, EKG and a blood panel indicate the chest pain wasn't something to dismiss. Apparently something - lifestyle, stress, diet, exercise, etc. is causing blood pressure to be significantly above normal and my heart is showing the strain (and showing signs of something delightful called Left Ventricular Hypertrophy)

As I jokingly said to my doc when she checked my blood pressure... "So... you're saying that scoring 100 isn't a good thing in this case?"

Um yeah, it's not. I love to wear the color red & have a burnt orange alma mater, but landing in the dark orange/red category on the AHA blood pressure chart isn't an accomplishment I wanted to claim.

I'm embarrassed. I'm scared, ashamed and mortified that I'm finding myself in this position.

But I'm also pissed off. That my 'edge' of being able to juggle stress and responsibility might have caused this. That my lifestyle of laissez faire could be contributing. That I'm having to make changes from what is comfortable. That I'm facing this right now in the so-called prime of my life. And - I'm definitely pissed at myself.

Heck - I own Bacon chapstick and socks and am was trying to make it at home. And I bought a book about salt's impact on global development. Now I'm having to follow some different rules of life

  • No caffeine (are you kidding me!)
  • Significantly reduce sodium intake (bye bye bacon obsession & cheese for a bit)
  • Reduce stress (um, what? How am I going to do that!?)
  • 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily (so my 90 minutes of soccer exertion once a week doesn't count?)
  • Take BP meds and take my BP daily (I now own a BP cuff, I feel like my grandfather)

But in the midst of my complaining and whining I'm extremely thankful for a number of things:

  • That through serendipity or dumb luck, being part of Go Red had this issue at the forefront of my mind and I acted on it.
  • That I've got the opportunity to make changes
  • That I have supportive friends, colleagues and family members who are supporting me in making the changes I need (It's always good to have that friendly voice asking you if you need an exercise buddy to nudge you towards what you need to do.)
  • And that I can (try!) to put my shame and ego aside to share what I'm going through to try and help one more person to listen to their body and make changes to get heart-healthy.

- Jess Flynn

(P.S. A plug for an important event for our Valley - join Red Sky and all of the other community and national sponsors in Going Red for Women on November 3. Red Sky will also host a BetterU Breakfast meetup at our offices next week. If you'd like to join us please comment on the post and we'll be in touch!)

Tagged With: Health & Wellness, Healthcare