I have been able to self-manage my high blood pressure for 20 years. I have controlled it through exercise, diet, meditation and a determined mind to force my body to properly behave — but now the haunting words of my initial diagnosis two decades ago, “You’re blood pressure is a little high,” is coming back to bite me. “There’s no shame in having high blood pressure,” my doctor said at the time, “It’s just how you’re piped.” I disagreed with him, and vowed to cure myself, and I set about on my Vegan voyage that has paid off as well as I could expect up until now.
The bad news came two weeks ago when I visited my new Internist — who also happens to be a Cardiologist — and he ran a battery of blood tests and didn’t like that my blood pressure was high: 160/100. He said the 160 wasn’t as alarming as the 100, but he wanted to do more tests and immediately put me on medication.
I asked him to give me a week without medication — at least until I returned for my blood results — because I have proven, time and again, that I have “White Coat Hypertension” where my blood pressure is super high in the doctor’s office and relatively normal at home. I can usually battle down my blood pressure to an out-of-the-office average of 127/83. Normal is 120/80.
My doctor said, “White Coat, Black Coat, No Coat, if your pressure is high, you need to be on medication because it will ruin your eyes and kidneys and everything else in your body. It really is a silent killer. It will ravage you.”
I nodded my head and appreciated the opportunity to get re-tested in a week. I knew a third of Americans have high blood pressure and half of that third have no idea they have dangerously high blood pressure — but I still didn’t want to surrender to my body. I eat right. I exercise. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I don’t take any prescription medication. I’ve sworn off white sugar. As I ticked off that list in my head, I realized I was out of behavioral options. If my blood pressure was, indeed, consistently high, I had no way out that I could modify with my behavior. I would be stuck without a self-resolution.
When I returned a week later for my blood results, my doctor tested my blood pressure three times and it was still “Stage Two” high. That wasn’t good. He told me I was in excellent health and that I was lucky my ECG was good and that my heart was strong. My blood pressure hadn’t yet started to beat me up. My prostate screening was good. My cholesterol was only 166. I was fit and of good weight — but I had a blood pressure problem now that had to be addressed with medication. After a week of living with the real possibility that my “pipes” had finally caught up with me, I was ready to surrender to medication I will have to take for the rest of my life.
My doctor wrote me a prescription for Benicar HCT 20/12.5 MG tablets. I asked him if there were side effects. “Every medication has side effects.” I asked him how long Benicar had been on the market — I didn’t want anything new or unproven — he replied, “It’s been out long enough.” My doctor’s bedside manner may not be warm, but I’d rather have a blunt and proactive cardiologist than someone who was kinder, but indecisive and wobbly.
Benicar HCT is expensive. Each tablet is $4.00. My co-pay for a 30-day supply was only $15.00USD. Health insurance is good and necessary!
Within 90 minutes of taking my first pill I felt as if I were melting. I was a little dizzy and a lot sleepy. My penis started filling with blood and then stopped as the internal melting continued. I felt as if I’d been punctured with pin and I was slowly losing air.
I took a nap.
When I awoke, I felt fine, but tired. I was slightly dizzy when I stood up. I could still think. I felt like myself. I was abnormally tired for three days. I did not have a headache.
Three days after my first pill, I tested my blood pressure at home and the reading was 110/69 and my average has stayed in that safe range for two weeks. Benicar HCT dropped my pressure by over 30 points on each end. I think that makes Benicar a miracle drug. I feel slightly thirsty at times, generally a lot calmer, and I urinate a little less frequently — which, I find, is a good thing — and other than the stinky smell of the pills, Benicar is my freshest and newest best friend forever.
Make sure to get regularly checked for high blood pressure. I was, probably foolishly, able to stave off the inevitable, and while my lifestyle change is admirable in the overall, I likely should have surrendered earlier to my need for blood pressure medication. I didn’t surrender because I was prideful, and stupid, and a little embarrassed — and because I didn’t want to cough all the time while endlessly peeing — but all those fears have been nullified and de-radicalized by Benicar HCT and I’m back in a more normal blood pressure range and I am back on the right track for maintaining my pretty good picture of health.