August 2017 was my wake up call.
I’d been checked into the hospital with stroke level blood pressure readings and it took them a couple of days to get my blood pressure to stay low at Hypertension stage 1 levels with medication and constant monitoring.
Having to start taking blood pressure medicine every day didn’t seem so bad at first, until week on a green tea health craze, I started drinking green tea once or twice a day and I started having blurred vision, headaches and a host of familiar high blood pressure symptoms. That’s when I learned that something in green and black tea has a canceling affect on some blood pressure medicine. Here I thought I was on the road to health and I was creating negative interactions with my meds.
Another time, trying to get healthier again, I decided to take probiotics and fish oil pills, but then I remembered the green tea event and decided to google for possible interactions with my medication.
Soon I found myself googling to check for possible interactions with everything I ate and drank. It was annoying and it was the “thing” that made me fed up and made me decide: I don’t want to live like this. I need to get off these meds. That decision may have been easier for me than for others as for now I am only on one pill. But one is so annoying, I can’t imagine what people go through who have to take multiple pills for multiple issues.
I know some people don’t have a choice, and one day maybe I won’t either, but that didn’t have to be now. I decided I owe it to my future self, and my family now, to do everything I can to reverse the issues that landed me in the prescription world taking blood pressure medication and sleeping with a machine–Obesity and sleep apnea. Which one causes which I don’t know. I feel the relationship between obesity and sleep apnea are much like the chicken and the egg. Who knows which came first but we know they are very closely associated.
Step 1: Getting the sleep issue fixed.
I’ll never forget my doctors words as i shared my frustrations with him, I told him”I read that sleep apnea causes weight gain, heart issues, diabetes, increases risks of cancer, and that losing weight can help, but no matter what I try, how hard I go, I don’t get any results. I stay the same or just gain weight,” then crying I added “Then I just say F*** it, and give up.”
He said, “Of course you aren’t getting results. You are never going to lose weight if you aren’t sleeping, but we are going to fix this and then we are going to fix you.”
Once I started sleeping, I decided to try to lose weight again to see if what my doctor said was true. This time would be different because I’m sleeping. I changed my eating and started working out three to four times per week and I started seeing results. The crazy thing was, I wasn’t going overboard with workouts, wasn’t going at it near as hard as I had in the past with no results. I was going on a 30 minute walk twice a week and going to Crossfit one to two times per week and my body was changing–Thanks to sleep!
If you find yourself tired even though you’ve slept 7, 8 or 9 hours, gaining weight despite all you’ve tried, snore, fall asleep through the day no matter what you try to stay awake, memory issues, these are quite a few symptoms of sleep apnea. Check out this link for complications and symptoms of this issue. If you think you have it, get a sleep study, most insurance companies cover it. Good luck!
Step 2: Change my way of eating
Once the sleep was in order, and I got the nerve to try again at this weight loss thing I started dropping weight.
I lost 8 lb December of 2017.
I lost 8 lb January 2018.
To accomplish this, I made sure I had at least 6 hours of sleep each night (with my CPAP breathing machine), and I set a goal to log my food and try to get equal percentages (33.33%) of my calories in nutrient rich, unprocessed, proteins (chicken, beef, fish, eggs), complex carbs (veggies and sweet potatoes), and good fats (avocado, coconut or olive oils). Lastly, got some, not too much, exercise– I went for a walk a couple times per week, and I went to Crossfit one to two times per week.
They say weight loss has an affect on blood pressure. Even having lost 16 lb, my blood pressure with medication was still usually 145-155/85-95.
Near the end of January 2018, I heard about a controversial way of eating that took everything I thought I knew about diet and nutrition and turned it upside down-Keto. Even though it went against everything I thought I knew about eating, seeing people consistently get results got my attention. I spent all my spare time the last two weeks of January researching this way of eating.
This way of eating is so controversial, but the results were so amazing that I decided try it and to document my journey and share what worked or didn’t work. You can check out my videos at Sylvia Jo’s Journey
January 27th 2018 I started Keto and 4 days after I started my blood pressure suddenly read 127/82.
I’ve been following a ketogenic way of eating for 6 months now. I’m losing weight at the same rate as I was before (sometimes slower). My total weight has gone from 310 lb to 264.9 (current weight). My blood pressure is usually 105-115/ 70-80 (with medication) and on 7/12/18, my doctor lowered my blood pressure medication dosage. With the new dosage I’m still reading 110-120/70-80, and my doctor plans to see me in 4 months to evaluate if I’m ready to come off this medication completely.
Sometimes when I say Keto helped me drop my blood pressure, people tell me, “well it’s the weight loss that made your blood pressure drop.” So I decided to test this, I changed from eating Keto to Paleo, which is still a very wholesome good way of eating focused on eating non processed, chemical free, inflammation reducing foods that resemble what our ancestors might have eaten.
The first week I switched my way of eating I felt fine.
The second week, my blood pressure started going up, my resting heart rate started going from 50s-60s to 70s-80s. I began to feel aches and pains of arthritis and other inflammatory issues. The original plan was to go Paleo a for a month. I found myself running back to Keto after two weeks. Within a week of returning back to Keto, my blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation all went back down, and I went back to feeling really good again.
People ask me, “Yah, but can you eat that way forever?” I don’t know. In it’s simplest form Keto is eating a good source of protein + veggies cooked in good fats. I like the simplicity and I love the food. But there are some things I miss, so its possible I dont want to eat this way every day for the rest of my life. But, this little experiment helped me learn that I don’t have to. I can keto for a few months, take a break (eat paleo, whole 30 or something) then go back keto within a week or less. The more I learn and understand the way of eating, the more I understand how to use it as a tool for my health.
Step 3: Exercise
The interesting thing about Keto is that people can get results without ever exercising, but exercise is good for the body and should be practiced too. Just a brief walk can help with circulation, thus blood pressure and diabetes, and it can help balance and coordination. Lord knows I need help there, I’m so clumsy!
I enjoy lifting weights too, but since the focus of this article is on blood pressure I’m going to avoid typing another 500 words on the benefits of strength training (we’ll do that another time).
These are the 3 key factors, in order of importance, of my weight loss and blood pressure journey so far this year: Sleep, Way of Eating, Exercise. Will I get completely off this medication? I’m determined to, and I will keep you updated as I work toward it.
I sincerely hope that my sharing my journey helps someone fix issues with sleep apnea, blood pressure or just overall health. I know what its like to feel like you’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work. I also know what it’s like to find the root of the issue and start seeing results. I hope, if you are struggling with this, you can get to the root of the issue and staring seeing results too.
You can track my progress at Sylvia Jo’s Journey. I try to post an update weekly. Feel free to ask me any questions. If I don’t know the answer, I can probably point you to some good information instead.