Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Different Kind Of Valentine's Day Love

This Valentine's Day, I'll share with you a different kind of gift and how you can show love, and maybe safe a life, including your own.

A few years ago I provided therapy for a teenager of a woman about Barack and Michelle Obama's age and looked just as good. During that time period, the mother had a 'mild' stroke. This was shocking, as I thought of strokes as "an old people's disease".

Hers was 'mild' only because one of her hands was left with less control in writing and holding things - like a pen or a fork. Unfortunately it was her dominant hand, so adjusting to the problem and physical therapy was tough.

At least she wasn't so impaired that she was leaning on one side, limping or drooling, or had slurred speech. However, her family and I could tell her thinking processes and personality were not the same, and she just didn't 'get' things like she could before. The focus in therapy shifted; her adolescent child had to grow up faster, and her husband had to adjust to her problems.

In another case, an old friend of mine was diagnosed with kidney disease. This guy is a youngish 50-something and looked great. He hated going to doctors and hadn't been to one since he was 25, back when I insisted he go for a respiratory infection. His blood pressure then was in the 'high normal' range. This was no surprise; he's an intense person and a workaholic.

In 2008, a new problem came on suddenly; one week he was fine, the next week all the hell he had put his body through from decades of drinking "just a little too much" after work to cope with stress finally caught up with him. He's now on dialysis and a wait list for a new kidney. The cause: ignored and untreated high blood pressure for decades. Learning about this made me horribly sad.

Two weeks ago my son had a knee injury from a biking accident. This was a gift - for me. While at the ER, I asked the tech if he'd mind taking my blood pressure, and was shocked to learn that it's high, particularly since low blood pressure runs in my family on both sides. It's a trick of denial that we think some things will never happen to us.

My former client didn't have a clue that her BP was high and I don't remember what caused it, but she and her family suffered for it. Had I not seen what can happen to a 'young' woman with my own eyes, I would have ignored what the tech told me that day.

Unlike my ex, I rarely drink, but I could stand to loose 25 pounds, cut back on the salt and give up drenching most of my veggies and cornbread in butter, and to start baking rather than frying chicken and fish... and quit smoking. Yeah, I'm embarrassed to say I haven't quit. I could also use more consistent exercise.

Call me lucky, but those are all lifestyle changes that will reduce it dramatically, probably without needing long term medication.

The CDC reports that for black and white Americans, the #1 cause of death is heart disease and the #3 cause of death is stroke. Latino Americans are nearly the same, but stroke is listed as their #4 cause of death.

Both heart disease and stroke are closely related to high blood pressure. First, you need to find out what your score is at your local pharmacy or grocery store that has one of those free HBP machines.

The American Heart Association has a fantastic interactive feature on its site where you can input your age, height, weight, and blood pressure.

Their Risk Calculator will tell you what yours is:

Then click the "Next Section" button at the bottom right side of their page for their Assessment - Part 2. With the information you already gave them, they'll tell you how your specific lifestyle changes can lower your risks and maybe beat them altogether.

You do not need to join, provide an email, nothing. It could not be easier or more simple to learn what you or your loved one can do to save your lives.

The hard part begins with changing the bad habits we love...


  1. excellent post! untreated health issues--mental and physical--are literally killing us.

  2. Great post! Like you I need to quit smoking, I try to tell myself I am better than I used to be since I no longer have a pack a day habit. Yet smoking 5-8 a day is still bad despite the fact I have lost weight and am pretty good about not eating the grease. This post serves as a reminder that I have to get serious about quitting. My problem is I will quit...I have gone as long as 2 years without smoking but I fall off the wagon.

  3. Wonderful post! You no, the questionnaire you fill out at the Dr. office the one were they ask about your family history and stuff?

    Well the other day I was there getting a check up and I had to fill one out. In all the boxes the I put no because I didn't connect my mom dying with me.

    So when the Dr. come in to talk to me he was asking about high blood pressure in my family. So I told him about my mom dying at 70 from a massive heart attack is when he let me no that I had the same gene and it could possible happen to me. Now that was a "reamer" word or Aha! moment either way I got it.

  4. ah so love yourself enough to make changes. i get it. :-)

  5. This post really hit home for me, as you know my father recently passed (one month tomorrow) from a major heart attack, brought on by heart disease.

    I want to share a couple of things. 1) you HAVE to read this book "The easy way to quit smoking" by Allen Carr. A cheesy title but cost around $15 and will change your life! I promise! 2) I just received this free cookbook from the American Heart Association in the mail called Soul Food Cookbook. I was going to start blogging one recipe a week from it but i checked and it is still available. It is an automated call. 1-888-432-7822. It is also chock full of great facts and the recipes look delish!

    You really have to get that book though! I think on Amazon it was around $13. I don't want to give anything away, it takes from it but I quit smoking before I finished the book!

  6. Kit, we need to do more posts like these, posts that remind us to do the right with our health...I don't smoke. But I used too much grease and don't exercise enough.

  7. fresh fruits and vegtable and getting folk ass of the couch - good look from this man who has worked in public health his entire life

  8. I'm a big dude, hence my moniker.

    Back in June, I decided I needed to work on that. So, a friend an I started walking and eventually jogging. My friend stopped participating, but I kept it up pretty well, and have gotten to the point where I'm able to jog at least three miles without stopping, and have done five miles on one occassion.

    I'm still a big dude, but I've lost a nice amount of weight, and I feel like I'm moving forward. The biggest challenge is eating right daily and getting up early in the morning for those runs.

  9. Ah K.I.T., Self love the best love! I agree, I have started to intensify my workouts and like big man I can jog longer than I have in many years, not quite 3 miles yet but getting there. I am purchasing a blood pressure monitor for the home, sugar diabetes test kits and cholesterol testing kit. I get my blood pressure monitored quite often. We Black men should get our prostate checked as well, but I must admit I have not done that as yet.

  10. Kit, this post is priceless. I am on the wrong track with my health. I gave up most refined carbs like 2 weeks ago. My weight dropped and I feel better. But I have a long way to go on other issues, and I'll be 40 in three years.

    We can't have too many reminders when it comes to our health!

    Hawa, author of Fackin Truth Blog and Cleanse Master Remix


Hi, this is Kit.

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