As Britney Spears sings in her song, “Oops!…I Did It Again!” You would think I would learn!!
What am I talking about and what does it have to do with blood pressure? Well let me explain and hope I can keep just one person out there from suffering from the same fate I did this past week!
Let me start with the fact that I normally have low blood pressure (low body temperature too, oddly enough!). I say that because I need to set the stage here on all of this.
As I started this article, I thought I knew what the actual topic would be, but I had to change it more to a generic “blood pressure” title because I did some more digging and am not quite sure I have the absolute, definitive answer to the riddle of what hit me like a brick house this past week.
Ironically, I just happened to be at the doctor’s office winding down our visit when suddenly I literally felt like some voodoo witch doctor was taking the little imitation doll of me and stabbing it with needles into the back of my head at the base. It was insane and the pain came on so suddenly that the doctor assumed it was a reaction to the window tinting his office had just had so we stepped outside the office.
Perhaps it was the “suggestion” from him that he came up with as to the cause, that I started to believe I was okay or perhaps that I was coming down with some flu bug or something as sometimes that can happen (at least that’s what I was telling myself). So I left and even the short walk to the car in the bright Texas sunlight was almost unbearable…but, I still had a 20-25 minute drive home ahead of me.
So do I call my sweetie? Nope! I effectively, insanely, get in the car and start home so now (in my mind’s eye) I’m saying to myself that I’m committed to get home! The pain got worse and worse and now I was sweating like nobody’s business (and no, it wasn’t the 100 degree San Antonio heat doing that as the air conditioning was full on)! My son called at one point and I then realized I could barely utter a word (much less even hold on to the phone that I should not have answered at that moment), but instead tears were now rolling down my eyes and I just could barely whisper to him to call Jesse.
Amazingly, I make it home safely (no animals, people or property were harmed in anyway!). My Scottie could tell immediately that I was not well and of course, Jesse already knew. I’m not sure what possessed me to check my blood pressure as I sat there waiting for Scottie to get some water so I could take some aspirin and acetaminophen (a combination our eye doctor suggested after we both had lasik eye surgery some years back–it really works well!). I think it wasn’t so much my blood pressure I was thinking about as I looked at that machine sitting on the table, but I knew it would give me my heart rate and I wanted to know what it was because it felt like my heart was racing wildly as well. I cannot remember the heart rate, but I do recall the top number on the blood pressure (the systolic pressure) was 140 and for me, that’s very high (my normal is below 100!). By the way, all of this took place in less than an hour to include the onset, the drive home and the checking of BP. It was a sudden onset of a severe headache along with dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations and profuse sweating (my clothes were drenched!).
I went to bed and woke less than two hours later and while I was not 100%, the severe headache was gone. Problem solved I thought. I took the next day off from work as I wasn’t feeling 100% and I was afraid if it happened again, I may not be as lucky coming home on the highway (better safe than sorry). The day after that, I returned to work and shared with a friend of the episode I experienced and she suggested that it sounded like a stroke and I better get it checked out.
STROKE!!!??? SAY WHAT??!! Oh my goodness!! So here’s the part where I started with that Britney Spears song title of “Oops, I Did It Again!” What does any self-respecting internet savvy, accountant do but go ahead and self-diagnose herself via the web into a stroke episode of some sort and freak myself out. I kind of freaked Jesse out as well as I was sending every link home saying, “Man, this doesn’t look good!”
Luckily, I have a general practitioner who 99% of the time will fit me in when I do this insane self-diagnosing. However, she was also concerned. I should have said that the doctor I saw earlier was a psychiatrist because that’s the only way I can get my A.D.D. medicine which I had run out of the day before and had not taken any that day. I had wondered if perhaps the reaction was from withdrawal from the A.D.D. meds but the pharmacist told Jesse that was not a normal reaction.
And that’s why we have doctors! The doctor had not ruled it out since it is such a high dose. She also thought my blood pressure may have been elevated because of the medicine as well. She ordered an MRI to scan my head (as I look at that picture, I cannot help but think of the face hugger on Alien…it does look kind of freaky…sorry, I digressed!). The MRI, thankfully, came out clear…no stroke! YAY!
So that still left me, however, without a real answer to the riddle (happy it was NOT my self-diagnosed stroke though!!).
So, what does she do AGAIN!!?? Yes, you guessed it, I did some MORE research out here in cyberspace!!!
I finally ran across something about mixing herbal supplements and medications and recalled that because I didn’t have my A.D.D. medicine that day, that I grabbed some herbal supplements to give me a little “boost.” I honestly believe that one small innocent act was the beginning of my demise that day. I looked closely at this other very low dose medication I’m taking (that does NOT interfere with the A.D.D. meds) and happened upon the warning NOT to mix herbal supplements with this particular medication. That’s when I spotted all the possible worst-case scenarios of what could go wrong to include a hypertensive crisis which can lead to stroke and death.
What is a hypertensive crisis? Symptoms of a hypertensive crisis include (does this sound familiar?): the sudden onset of severe headache, nausea, stiff neck, a fast heartbeat or a change in the way your heart beats (palpitations), a lot of sweating, and confusion. I had ALL of those symptoms EXCEPT the confusion except to say that I was confused why I felt so bad so quickly (but I don’t think that counts!).
Okay, now let me caveat right here that I am not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV and I am not dispensing any medical advice here, but I have taken Ephedra in the past and was happy with that “boost” of energy but had no idea that it was the cause of my blood pressure going higher and higher. It was a few years ago and I was working closely with a doctor that believed in bio-identical hormone replacement. And it was working like a charm (pricey too!). I started losing weight like nobody’s business, my mood was completely changed, etc. However, they just couldn’t figure out why–as I was losing so much weight–why my BP would keep spiking. Well, they asked if I had been taking anything and I ONLY thought of prescription drugs so I kept saying “No.” And then, finally, the nurse asked the RIGHT question, i.e., “How is your energy?” Well I exclaim, “Great since I’ve been taking these pills!” …and I proceed to whip out these ephedra pills and both of us had that aha moment and identified the culprit. I went home that day and dumped all those pills.
So, bottom line, be careful mixing herbal supplements with ANY prescription drugs and READ THE LABELS and warning slips that come with your prescription medications. Also, herbal doesn’t always equate to healthy. Just because it says “natural” does not make it safe. Arsenic is a “natural” element and is not exactly safe for consumption.
Did I have a hypertensive crisis? I honestly think so because I have such low blood pressure and it potentially jumped 50 points rapidly. However, I did the research and according to my scary internet research (she will never learn!), a hypertensive crisis (urgency) is a situation where the blood pressure is severely elevated [180 or higher for your systolic pressure (top number) or 110 or higher for your diastolic pressure (bottom number)]. Since I did not pay attention to that bottom number, I am not sure, but I’ll just say that my THEORY (and I have many of these you will find!!), is that because I have such low blood pressure normally, that a spike to 140 systolic rapidly put me in a hypertensive crisis. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. 🙂
Be careful…and pay attention to warning labels.
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