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Jul 9, 2020

Why It Is Important To Speak Up When It Comes To Your Health

Have you ever felt like something in you is a bit off? Like you are off balance and can't quite figure out what your problem is? I went to my doctor a little over a month ago for my annual physical. I was actually 2 months off schedule since the pandemic came and knocked everything out of whack. Any time I have to go in to the doctor's office my blood pressure spikes a bit. I do check it at home regularly, and it is almost always right where it's supposed to be. The nurse always laughs and asks me if I am afraid of her, and that she doesn't bite. That usually calms me down, and my BP goes back down.

This last visit went a lot differently than normal. It was one of those very hot and muggy mornings, and I am normally the type of person who is always hot. I had to sip my ice water in the car, and put my mask on to enter the building. I went in, got registered at the front desk, and waited patiently to be called back. As soon as I saw the nurse crack open the door I felt my heart beat a bit faster, and I could feel myself trying harder to breathe. The mask doesn't make it any easier, but of course you still have to wear one.

Like with any visit, the first thing they do is check your weight and vitals. I decided to give myself a break with the weight since COVID-19 has been stressful and concerning. When the blood pressure cuff was placed around my arm, I had a bad feeling. My BP was 170/100! My heart rate was 117. I just sat there in shock as the nurse told me she would have to re-take my BP in a 5-minute time frame 3 times to get an average number between the three. Of course since it was within 5 minutes of the first check, it was still high at 155/95.

I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach and had those panicked breaths where I felt like I was gasping for air. My nerves were shot at this point. My doctor came in shortly after and was briefly updated on what was going on. We chatted about my overall well-being and how I was really feeling and I told her I was definitely better than I was in previous years dealing with extreme anxiety and depression. She figured that my elevated BP and heart rate were due to anxiety that were related to the pandemic, and the news regarding police brutality and racism. I mean, who isn't feeling a whole lot right now?

She highly recommended that I start a low-dose anti-anxiety medication to help me calm down, and hopefully that would result in my BP and heart rate regulating. I agreed. I don't know why, but I agreed. She wanted to see me back in 6 months to discuss how things end up going from taking the medication. I also had to wait for my lab results to see if anything else was wrong. Last year my cholesterol was high, and that is concerning since both of my parents were cardiac patients. I was warned of the possibility that if it was the same or higher, I would need to get on cholesterol meds right away.

I was diagnosed with thyroid disease about 5 years ago, and have been on medication to keep it regulated since then. Lucky for me, I've had very few symptoms that affect me. The only time I really did have anything that wasn't quite right was confused as being anxiety, when in reality I was having heart palpitations. Then the light bulb popped on in my head. The deep breathing and higher heart rate wasn't feeling 100% like anxiety, but more like heart palpitations. I decided to wait for my lab results to come back so I could see what my Thyroid-Stimulation Hormone (TSH) levels were. I just had a feeling something wasn't right.

What is so strange about the whole pandemic is that my life wasn't really affected a whole lot. Being home all the time, and homeschooling my son is my normal. Aside from not being able to find certain items at the store, things have been fine on the home-front. The only time I would get worked up is when I turned on the news. The state of the nation has been pitiful to say the least. Seeing so many families affected by job loss, kids not getting adequate education, and the state of financial crisis is enough to make anyone worry. But you know what? I still chose to find the good things to focus on each day. This made getting through these crazy months a lot easier. I have been surprisingly calm despite what was going on all over the world.

Enough about that, back to the lab results. They came in the next day, and to my surprise, the doctor was super happy to see how great everything looked. My cholesterol went down by 43 points! I had no idea it could drop that much in just a year. I can't tell you how relieved I was to get this fantastic news. I decided to really read through my results to make sure everything else was where it needs to be. I improved on just about everything! One thing did stick out to me though. My TSH level was at the top of the high number. That didn't sit right with me. Although it was .04 within the range, I was still concerned.

I sent a message through the patient portal to express my concerns about the TSH levels, and asked for my medication to be adjusted. I really feel like my elevated heart rate and BP was from heart palpitations caused by my thyroid and not anxiety. She agreed to step me up to 75mg from 50mg and have my labs done again in 3 months. After taking the higher dosage for 2 weeks, the palpitations subsided and I started feeling normal again. I definitely have not felt any anxiety or sadness. I knew I wasn't depressed, and was NOT about to take a drug that would be very hard to come off of.
This is what my blood pressure and heart rate look like now. 
I am happy that I decided against the anti-anxiety meds and opted to advocate for myself. While antidepressants are necessary for many people and do help a lot, I knew I didn't need them. I used to be one of those people who thought if a doctor tells you something, it's as good as gold and you have to listen. It's not always the case. Read over your lab reports, do your own research, ask questions and follow your gut. I'm so happy that I did! I will get my labs work done in the first part of September and go from there.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post. Continue to stay well, and wear your mask!
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