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Pressure Points course changing lives

King Edward VII Memorial Hospital’s Pressure Points programme has made a significant difference in the lives of at least two of the four women who have completed it.

The educational programme is designed to help those with high blood pressure navigate the difficulties of managing the disorder.

The four-week course features talks on medications, diet, exercise and the disease itself.

Ms Brangman, a local woman who asked that her first name not be used, took the course at the end of last year.

“They said I could take it in December but that I needed a referral from my physician,” she said. “I had a scheduled appointment so I told him about it and he agreed that it was a good thing for me to do.”

Ms Brangman, now in her 50s, has been taking medication to control her blood pressure for about four years.

At 5ft 2in and about 100 pounds, her doctor said losing weight was not something she could afford to do.

As she is very active, she walks daily and swims regularly, the exercise advice commonly given to high blood pressure patients didn’t fit.

“My doctor said I will have to take the medication for the rest of my life,” she said. “I understand that and I accept it.”

Currently she takes only one pill a day but she said she’s aware that if she doesn’t pay close attention, she may have to take more to bring her numbers down to safe levels.

“Sometimes [my blood pressure is] still higher than it should be, like 130-something over 80-something,” she said. A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80.

She was the only one in the Pressure Points class at that time.

She said she found the material in all the sections useful. She said learning about the importance of reading labels was the most valuable part of the course.

“It was a great help. I would really not analyse them before,” she said. “She made me look at how much sodium is in the things I eat. We figured this is my problem area.

“I guess I did know sodium was dangerous for those with high blood pressure but [the difficulty is] putting it into practice when I’m busy making deadlines and trying to fit too much into the day fast food snacking has [always] been me.

“I didn’t usually think about it, I wasn’t thinking about veggie burgers having 600 milligrams of sodium and that I should therefore not be eating it. I would reach for what was delicious and easy.

“Since the course I now bother to read the labels. I try a bit more although it’s difficult because I do have a sweet tooth and love milkshakes, cakes, biscuits and candies, but they’re too sweet and also not appropriate for me to have.”

Mary DeSilva, one of three women who took the course in January, said she too has become an avid label reader.

“I spend about an hour longer buying my groceries now, because I spend so much time reading the labels of everything I’m buying,” she said.

A retired 72-year old she said she and her husband drank quite a bit of soda.

“Everyday,” she said. “I had not realised they were so high in sugar. I’ve never liked skimmed milk or Crystal Light, but now I drink both of them.”

She’s also cut the cream and sugar out of her tea and coffee, replacing them with Splenda. “We drink more plain water now,” she said.

Determined to manage her blood pressure, Mrs DeSilva confided that she had to change physicians in order to have the matter addressed.

“During 2011 it was getting higher and higher. In November it was 210/128,” she said. “I knew I had to do something or else I could have a stroke.

“I got a doctor who put me on meds right away and got my pressure back down to normal.”

Having completed the course Mrs DeSilva is also now more determined to exercise every day.

“I have a video, ‘Walk Away the Pounds’, where I can do a one-, two- or three-mile routine. I usually do two miles every day,” she said.

And she’s seen the benefits quickly.

“In the first week I lost seven pounds,” she said. “I don’t know, I’ll ask my doctor the next time I see him, but if I continue to exercise and eat well, maybe I can come off the medication.”

While that’s not an option for Ms Brangman, she said she’s encouraged that changing her eating habits could prevent her from having to increase her medication.

During the four-week course her pressure reading steadily decreased.

“The last week it was actually 119/74 but I know that doesn’t mean I can stop the medication,” she said.

“So many people tell me that I should try to manage it with diet and exercise, but the doctor said for me that’s never going to be enough.

“And even when it’s low I think it could be high if I wasn’t taking the pills.

“To me it’s most important that I manage it to avoid the risk of heart, and kidney disease and stroke.”

Six people are enrolled in the February/March Pressure Points programme. For more information telephone 239-2027.

Photo by Cathy Stovell Managing HBP: Seventy-two year old Mary DeSilva does a two mile walk video in her living room almost everyday, now that she's attended the Pressure Points class offered by The Bermuda Hospitals Board to help those with high blood pressure, manage their condition. Mrs DeSilva said she's using grapefruits until she gets some weight balls.

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Published March 06, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated March 06, 2012 at 7:42 am)

Pressure Points course changing lives

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