Getting older is OK. But...

I'm no fan of some of the baggage it comes with... | 13/8/2023

Bliddy Hell! It's nearly a year since my last post!


OK, that's kinda in keeping with the theme, really. 

As I write, I'm less than a week from my 63rd birthday: and all told, I feel great. But for a fair chunk of the year, that wasn't the case at all...

Back at the beginning of the year, I started getting recurring - let's call it - abdominal discomfort. Not pain as such, just a general "not quite right" that would sometimes manifest just under my sternum - so "stomachy" - and sometimes low down in my abdomen - so "bowely."

It didn't stop me from doing anything; I could sleep through it easily enough; but after a few weeks without any changes - getting no worse, but no better - and because it coincided with TV adverts extolling people to get "not quite right" checked out sooner rather than later in case something sinister was going on, I arranged for my first GP appointment in about 15 years.

Long story short, it. the GP prescribed medication for excess acid production.

I wasn't convinced: yes, the "stomachy" presentation ticked the excess acid box, but surely it didn't make sense for when the problem was making a nuisance of itself low down in my bowels?

That's why he's a GP and I ain't, I guess: after a month, I was completely back to normal.

But... Because I hadn't engaged with my practice for so long, I was well overdue my "Well Man" exam, so I was put on notice that I really needed to avail myself of the opportunity.

Meh... No problem, right? I felt (dodgy tum notwithstanding) as fit as a butcher's dog; I had no family history of the kinds of problem these check-ups are meant to identify; I was keeping myself fit and active; and I assumed that because I've always had blood pressure on the low side of normal, I'd still have blood pressure on the low side of normal - I'd done nothing to change that, so I was bound to be OK, right?

Big mistake...

I went through the check-up and it was a shock to find out that:

  • I was about 2 stones overweight;
  • I was  pre-diabetic;
  • my cholesterol was right on the edge of being too high; and:
  • my BP was (and may have been for years) dangerously high - I mean a few points off immediate emergency hospitalisation high - 185/98 being typical.

Fecking Hell! That was unexpected, unwelcome news...

 Now, I think I'd had my BP checked about 5 years previously when I had to go to A&E with a possible broken hand; and I'm assuming that the nurse would have told me at the time if it was stupid-high: but in any event, this was clearly a call to action.

Initially things didn't go well.

I immediately started on a weight-loss regime (which to be fair, has gone to plan - I'm down from exactly 13 stones in January as per the official Well Man weigh-in, to a couple of pounds over 11 as of today), so that - along with some more attention paid to my diet and activity levels - should go a long way to moving me away from being pre-diabetic.

I also got straight onto cholesterol-lowering yoghurts and spreads - this should have sorted out the borderline cholesterol reading.

But my BP was an utter 'mare to stabilise.  

To be clear, I took very seriously the need do everything I could behaviourally - upping my activity levels would help my BP as well as my pre-diabetes - and (although I've never been a heavy salt user), from Day One I was straight onto LoSalt, and being very diligent about reading the labels of whatever food I was shopping for, and choosing lower-salt alternatives.

And a fat lot of good it seemed to do.

I was initially prescribed 5mg Amlodipine, and - truth is - it had no discernibly useful effect whatsoever: I was to take them for a month, and in the last week of that month, self-monitor my BP twice a day, then report back to the GP with an averaged-out score for that week.

Still way too high. 

So I was put on 10mg of Amlodipine. 

Not only did that make practically no positive difference to my readings, it also (I'm 100% convinced it was to blame) caused some pretty serious heart arrhythmias - bad enough to warrant trips to hospital in March to be fitted with a Holter monitor "ambulatory ECG" device so that we could get to the bottom of this new and very unwelcome development. 

Spoiler alert: it took three months for the results (13 pages of them!) to be reported back, but according to the referring GP, whatever is going on is within normal limits and doesn't warrant further intervention. And - importantly - it isn't atrial fibrillation, which I really didn't want to have on my plate.

Additionally, over the last couple of weeks, my ticker seems to have settled right down, and I'm getting hardly any of the palpitations that I was worried about: the odd extra beat - an "ectopic" - never really bothered me, but I was also getting instances of my normal heart rate literally doubling for a couple of seconds, for no good reason. That's scary, but - touch wood - it seems to have gone away.  

Anyway, back to the meds: I was put back onto 5mg of Amlodipine - as the GP said, "95% of the benefit, with none of the side-effects, of the higher dose" - and 5mg of Ramipril.

It took an age, but that combo seems finally to have had the desired effect: I went onto this prescription in April, and although it took a long time (not helped by my own reaction to having my BP read - to be honest I freak out, which really buggers with the readings - "White Coat Syndrome", even when I'm taking my own readings) I'm routinely down around 120/70 now, sometimes lower.

Because of the psychosomatic dimension of my readings, I also persuaded the GP - without any push-back at all, as it happens - that a beta-blocker might be a good idea, so I've also got 5mg Propranolol when I feel the need: I can take up to 6 a day, but I'm only taking one, at bed time, just because when the palpitations were at their worst, bed time was when they were most problematic.

So - most of the year in - I'm finally starting to feel like myself again. I'm well aware that I could be a lot worse off than I am, but even so, I might still have some crap to deal with down the line: not knowing how long I'd had high BP before it was diagnosed means I might easily already have cardiovascular damage that could bite me on the arse big time in future; ramipril can have negative effects on kidney function, so that needs to be monitored (my kidney function tests have been OK, but I wouldn't want them going a lot lower); and although I expect that I've got my blood sugar under control, I haven't actually done any official follow-up on that since my pre-diabetes was diagnosed, so I need to get back onto that before long, just to make sure...

But as a perennially glass half-full kind of guy, I'm happy enough with my current lot - I've got a week booked in Peterborough at the beginning of September to fish this place and I'm seriously looking forward to that jaunt; my Specialized Turbo Levo SL electric mountain bike has now had its second (sad) motor replacement, so I hope I'll feel up to getting out on that before the year is out; and all told, I feel pretty good.

And hopefully I'll be feeling even better in a few months, now that I've finally been able to get my fear of dentists to take second place to my depression at the state of my teeth: I have every intention of spending a few thousand - possibly quite a few thousand - on getting my smile sorted out, at long last. 


Categories: Personal