By vybe patient Tyrone B., an unpaid contributor
I had always considered myself to be somewhat health-conscious. I didn’t smoke, I reserved heavy drinking for weekend adventures, and I tried to exercise at least twice a week. But in 2011, a doctor’s visit changed my entire outlook on what “healthy living” really means.
As an African-American man, I had heard that I was more at risk for issues such as high blood pressure or diabetes. I’d even watched my grandmother and a few uncles struggle with these conditions for years. Still, I thought it was something I’d only need to worry about when I hit middle age.
But around age 28, I was hit with the combination of a new job and a new breakup, which led to a period of consistent over-indulgence. Too many french fries, too few sit-ups, let’s just say. When it was time for my “annual” physical (which I had regressed to a once-every-three-years visit), I knew I wasn’t at peak health. The number on my scale and my expanding waistline had made that painfully clear. Yet, those signals did not prepare me for the call I received from my doctor a few days after the check-up. I was informed that not only had my cholesterol jumped to a borderline-high 240, but my blood pressure had spiked to a concerning 135/ 85. I was advised to make some big changes in my diet and exercise routine, or I might need to begin taking serious blood pressure medication.
People often talk about being scared straight. But in that moment, I was scared skinny. I knew it was time to start taking my health more seriously. I did not want to wind up on the same regimen of medication that had burdened my family members. I took my doctor’s advice and began exercising 4 days a week, watching my salt intake, and replacing the french fries with veggies (as often as I could muster the willpower). It wasn’t easy at first, but every time I thought about slipping, I remembered that my heart was more important than that second helping. And eventually, making healthier decisions just became a part of my routine.
One year later, I went back in for my physical and was shocked at the difference those few small changes had amounted to. My cholesterol was down to 185, my blood pressure is a glorious 120/80, and I had lost about 4 inches in my waistline, thank you very much! But the best side effect of all is the peace of mind that I have a lifestyle that promotes health and well-being rather than early hypertension or diabetes.
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