Taking the Pressure Off: A Personal Account of Hypertension

A new job and a new start at a healthier lifeMHLbannersmall

As an African American woman who had been overweight for a number of years, Mary Murray, Manager of Business Relations at Riverside Rehabilitation Institute (RRI), thought the biggest health problem she might face would be diabetes based on her weight as well as a family history. So when she found out it was her blood pressure she had to deal with – and quickly -- it was a surprise, and not a pleasant one. But with some timely medical intervention and some hard work on Mary's part, it turned out even better than she might have imagined.

"I was just about ready to leave Riverside Regional Medical Center after a pre-employment checkup for my new job at Riverside. After a number of years as the Director of Marketing for the City of Portsmouth and some time as an independent consultant, I was looking forward to being part of an organization and a supportive group of people again. 'I forgot to check your blood pressure,' the Employee Health nurse said as the cuff started to tighten on my arm. After a short time she looked concerned. And of course, that concerned me.

Murray_Mary_MHL'You're about ready to have a stroke,' she said. With a blood pressure reading that registered 210 over 150 I knew she wasn't exaggerating. But it came as a real shock. I had some surgery not long before that and there was no indication of a problem, especially one that serious. I guess that's why they call hypertension the silent killer. And I was walking around with it without even knowing.

I went to my regular physician right after that and started medication to get my blood pressure under control. But we both knew that wasn't going to be enough. I was told that my best chance at a healthier life, or any kind of life for that matter, was going to involve some serious lifestyle changes. I was advised to change the way I ate, exercise far more than I was doing, keep a journal of my activities, and stay positive.

With some pretty strong will power and a lot to live for, I did everything that was suggested. The hard part was making so many changes after years of neglecting my health, but I'm in it for the long run now and I have to say, it's paid off. I went down eight dress sizes and my doctor said my weight reduction was like 'losing a first grader,' which I was glad to do. The other good news is that the changes I've been making have rubbed off on my daughter. She's also lost some weight, is exercising more, and eating better. Last month she ran her first race at RRI's 5K by the Bay. That was really exciting for me because my work includes coordinating the 5K. Watching her come across the finish line was a real thrill.

It's hard to say if I would have gotten some kind of warning before the high blood pressure caused a serious problem. No way to know. But I believe that if I hadn't been starting my job at RRI and getting that exam, I might not be here now to tell the story."

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