ASK YOUR DOCTOR: On Medical Challenges and Finding Solutions

I did a project during my undergraduate studies on the difficulties of getting underrepresented groups, and particularly African American males, to go in for preventative medical care. These have occurred for many reasons, but one of the most important is a lack of insurance, and the subsequent inability to form strong relationships with primary care providers.

This has been the case for me, until now. Probably the best thing my current employer provides is a good insurance plan that allows, well requires, me to get at least one physical a year. For the years 2013 and 2014, this passed without incident. During both of those, I also had different doctors.

Then I crossed that 35 line. It’s a point in life where more rigorous testing becomes necessary, because well that’s when all of the crazy stuff seems to begin. My doctor from last year had already informed me that this physical would involve more, and that close examination would continue from here on.

Then a new person came in this April, one who really takes the time to sit down, talk through things with me, and take extensive notes. She even picked up on unspoken subtleties that led to more questions, uncovering further information that I might not have otherwise inquired about. That shows how truly effective medicine uses components of counseling such as empathy and the ability to propel a previously stalled conversation forward.

So I had gone this April for the annual. There, it was determined that my blood pressure was entering borderline territory, with the top number hovering between 140-150, and the bottom number around 80-90. The only other thing I had checked at that particular meeting was cholesterol, which seemed to be fine.

“Ok, we’re not gonna do this once a year thing anymore,” she said. “I want you back in three months.”

Ideally, I would have scheduled that next appointment right after my return from the Norrie Disease Association’s conference in August. But, I knew I would be tired and probably a bit stressed then, thus potentially fudging the BP numbers a bit. I did attempt to schedule the follow-up right at the beginning of September, but she was booked by that point until this past Tuesday. So that is when I had to go.

This time, they administered two tests: because she wanted to try and counter whatever I might have been feeling due to the crazy transportation issues I had in getting there (for some reason, the bus didn’t come at all!) The numbers did fluctuate, but both times they were still in that borderline range.

“Ok, next I want you to obtain a blood pressure cuff and test yourself at different periods of the day,” she said: “because there can be a lot of variability. We’ll take this final step and I’ll see you back in a month, then we can decide on whether to proceed with medication.”

Now, there are some cuffs that can talk, which is a good thing as I can then take the readings and log them myself. But those cost like $80. I’m going to see if there is a way I can get my hands on one for at least cheaper in the coming week.

In the meantime, I am already trying to modify my eating/sleeping habits such that perhaps things will improve a bit. Man is this hard! Many of these habits, including ingesting sugary and/or salty foods, just help me cope with adult life. But I believe that only a few days away from them, or at least cutting them back significantly, will demonstrate that they are not truly necessary for me to function.

The greatest challenge I face is finding stuff to replace my largely microwavable diet. I need things I can prepare relatively easily, but that have a higher health value. I can cook a little better than I usually do,, and have been contemplating some sort of grocery list that relies a lot less on processed platters.

While finding out that I have this issue now does make me a bit nervous, I suppose it is better to know while I can try and do something about it, and not once some truly horrible condition occurs. That is why I say to, well so many of us, including people with disabilities, cultural minorities and the like, that it is important that we allow ourselves to be checked out periodically. Because knowledge is power.

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