We’ve been amazed at the way Grant Faulkner, an account manager here at Best Health, has tackled’and defeated’his high blood pressure without medication. His take-charge attitude when it comes to his health has been an inspiration to the entire Best Health team and proves that lifestyle changes really can save your life. In honour of Heart Health month, Grant shares his story here. We hope he will inspire you, too.
As a longtime blood donor, I’ve always liked keeping a record of my blood pressure (which they test each time you give blood). Sometime by the end of 2009, I noticed that my blood pressure had started to go up. I also have a very simple home monitor, which was showing the same thing.
So I figured it was time to go in for an annual physical (I hadn’t been in over three years, my age is 44) and I booked my appointment just before the Canadian May 2-4 weekend.
Well, my doctor found that reading was indeed high at 145/95. I do have family history of heart disease (my father had a massive heart attack at 55), so my doctor knew I had to be carefull with my blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. He told me straight up that he wanted to see me lose weight (I was 210 and 5′ 9″ at the time), cut down on salts, excercise more and drink less alcohol, or else we would have to look at medicine options. What a great start to the first long weekend of the summer.
I had been going to a gym for years and felt I ate sensibly, so this was a bit of a surprise to me, but I knew I had to make some changes. The first thing I did was start to record my sodium consumption. I would calculate it as a percentage’for example, if I ate two pieces of toast, I would record it as 22 percent of my sodium intake for the day. So I kept a running total and stayed under the recommended daily intake, which should not exceed 2,300 mg sodium for a man my age. To stay within my limit, I had to eliminate some foods such as certain cans of soup, processed deli meats, ketchup and fast-food meals. In fact, eating out in restaurants is pretty tough in general, so pre-preparing most of the food I ate while out at work was the easiest way to go. (And it’s healthier for the wallet too!)
I also increased the frequency of my workouts, aiming to exercise three times a week. I also focused much more on cardio and incorporated 60 minutes of running into each workout. Finally, I set out to limit my alcohol consumption to under 20 drinks per week. That’s higher than what is recommended, but it was a reduction for me.
Within a couple weeks of reducing my sodium, my blood pressure started to come down. I check it at the gym where they have the blood-pressure monitor and noticed the number was down to 130/85. I also got a lot of comments from people who said I had lost weight, even in the early stages of my new lifestyle.
My sodium counting led me to also count the calories I consume every day. I shoot for 2,000 calories per day’around 500 at breakfast, 650 at lunch and 750 for dinner and an evening snack.
I went back for a follow-up visit with my doctor almost four months after that first appointment. I felt somewhat uneasy about what he would say, but I knew that I had made healthy changes to the way I was living. He commented on my weight loss‘I was down more than 20 pounds at that point’and went to take my blood pressure. After taking the reading, he said, "Wow, that’s amazing." I was curious: was that a good "wow" or a bad one? It turned out to be a great "wow"’my blood pressure was down to 110/75!
Going forward, I’ve been increasing my runs at the gym and I’ve actually started to keep track of how much fat I consume’eating more meat alternates and white meat has helped keep my fat intake in check. It really feels great that I’ve been able to reduce my blood pressure without medication, simply by making healthier lifestyle choices.
P.S. Here’s a picture of Grant at the beginning of his quest to lower his blood pressure, which was taken at the 2009 Weekend to End Breast Cancer event in Toronto. Above is Grant, 20 pounds lighter, at the office today.