From Casino Dealer to Making a Deal with Hypertension to Spare Her Life4 years ago | Hypertension
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
While pregnant with her second child and working at her job in a casino as a poker dealer, 21-year-old Leah Archer started to feel dizzy and light-headed. She figured it was just her being pregnant or being around all of the cigarette smoke in the casino.
“I went to the casino nurse, who examined me and told me that my blood pressure was high—154/98. That was the first time anyone had ever said anything about my blood pressure,” Archer said.
She then went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with pregnancy-induced hypertension. Her doctor put her on bedrest and told her to slow down.
“Although I followed his instructions, I didn’t really take it seriously. Hypertension? What was that?”
(As you may already know, hypertension is high blood pressure and increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke).
Unfortunately for Archer, she was about to become all too familiar with hypertension.
Around six months after having her baby, she experienced another scary episode at work. She started seeing spots and flashing lights. Again, she went to the nurse and discovered her blood pressure was too high. But this time, the nurse told her to not return to work until she had a doctor’s note saying she was on medication.
“I was a single mother of two, overweight—220 pounds at 5 feet 4—and not eating properly. Because I worked nights, I would sleep all day and eat all night. I wasn’t exercising and my job could be stressful at times, with drunk people blaming me whenever they lost. All of this probably contributed to my hypertension...My doctor put me on high dosages of medications, yet my pressure rarely dipped below 154/98.”
(A blood pressure of 120/80 is considered normal, according to the American Heart Association. To learn more about blood pressure readings, click here).
Archer was told that if she didn’t lose weight, stop smoking (she was up to a pack a day) and get her blood pressure under control, she was going to have a stroke.
“Even with those warnings, it wasn’t until I found myself in the ICU a few years later—not from a stroke but because an out-of-the-blue allergic reaction to one of my medications caused my face and lips to swell so badly the doctors thought my tongue would also swell.”
Fortunately, she recovered and got the wake up call she needed to change her habits. She sought the help of a nutritionist and dietician, reduced her sodium intake, started exercising, stopped smoking and also took a stress management class that included teaching her meditation and breathing techniques. She lost 50 pounds in seven months, reduced her blood pressure and was able to lower the amount of meds she was taking.
(And remember before she changed her lifestyle, despite taking medications, her blood pressure was not lowering. She also experienced an allergic reaction to the medicine).
She even quit her stressful job as a poker dealer, and pursued running a small publishing company with her now husband.
“Today, at 36, I’m maintaining a decent blood pressure and trying to lose another 15 pounds. My mental, physical and overall health seems to be at an all-time high and I love it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get off my meds completely; maybe if I had begun aggressively fighting hypertension in my twenties that might have been possible.”
I love this story, because it is relatable and similar to other scenarios I have seen in my personal and professional life. It took this young woman multiple health scares and years to finally make the necessary lifestyle changes to address her blood pressure issues. And when she finally did, she saw incredible results.
One message here is that your diagnosis does not always determine your future. And medicine alone may not cure your illness. You have to claim responsibility for your health and do your part to ensure that you protect your health.
Being proactive about your health may include making changes to your diet, exercise regimen, work setting and quitting unhealthy habits like smoking. How you choose to react to your diagnosis or health concerns has a major impact on your health.
If you are currently taking antihypertensive drugs and not eating right or moving as much as you should, consider that changing your habits could lower your blood pressure, lower the amount of medicine you need or maybe even reverse your condition so that you don’t need any drugs at all.
Take a look at the following study from the American Heart Association.
The study examined 129 overweight or obese men and women (ages 40-80) who had hypertension. At the time of the study, participants were not taking medication to lower their blood pressure. It’s important to note that at the beginning of the study, more than half of the participants were good candidates for being prescribed medication to treat their hypertension.
The researchers assigned (by random selection) the participants one of the following guidelines for a 16-week period:
- Group 1 - Followed the DASH diet, which emphasizes eating whole foods and has proven to help lower blood pressure. This group also received behavioral counseling and had supervised exercise sessions three times a week.
- Group 2 - Only focused on following the DASH diet (with the help of a nutritionist). This group did not have any kind of an exercise intervention.
- Group 3 - Did not change exercise or eating habits.
The Results After Just 16 Weeks?
(I’m sure you already know which group had the best results, but what I want you to keep in mind is that none of these interventions involved taking medicine).
- Group 1 - Lost an average of 19 pounds and had reduced blood pressure by an average 16 mmHg systolic and 10 mmHg diastolic.
- Group 2 - Had blood pressures decrease an average 11 systolic/8 diastolic mmHg.
- Group 3 - Had minimal blood pressure decline (average 3 systolic/4 diastolic mmHg).
Moreover, at the end of the study only 15 percent of the participants who changed both their diet and exercise habits needed antihypertensive medicine. For those who only changed diet, 23 percent needed medicine. And finally for those who did not change their lifestyle, nearly 50 percent needed drugs.
I hope this information inspires you to make the changes you need to make today. The changes may include quitting cigarettes, moving more or eating better each week. When it comes to eating better, make sure you include plenty of whole foods in your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. These foods contain blood-pressure lowering nutrients such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and more.
If you have hypertension, at-home blood pressure monitoring can help you be more aware of where you stand and encourage you to make the necessary changes to lower your blood pressure.
Finally, taking a comprehensive nutrient test to determine if you have any nutrient imbalances or deficiencies is imperative. People who are nutritionally balanced are overall healthier and have reduced risks of developing a myriad of health conditions, including hypertension.
Let’s enjoy our healthiest lives!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.