I bet you’re anxious to learn the results of my blood-pressure test.
In last week’s article, I talked about my high blood pressure, and how, for the sake of a more accurate reading and because I kept claiming that my blood pressure was only high when I was awake, the doctor recommended that I wear a 24-hour blood pressure cuff, which is a cuff that goes off at random times -- usually the worst times possible, like a photographer at a simcha -- so the doctor could determine whether he should prescribe more pills.
I actually asked the technician, when he was putting on the cuff, if I should specifically relax to make the numbers low, or if I should specifically be active, or what.
(NOTE: I’m calling him a technician for lack of a better term. I’m not sure he’d done this a lot of times before. I do know that everything he said gave me the feeling that he’d never worn this cuff before.)
So he told me that I should just go about my regular routine. But I don’t know if that was actually what I was supposed to do, or if he specifically wanted me to think I didn’t have to relax so my numbers would skew high. He did tell me that it didn’t matter, because this wasn’t actually a stress test. A stress test, he said, is when they make you run on a treadmill, and if you can’t run, they shock you. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t get stressed by that. So clearly they’re skewing the tests high. They just want to sell everyone pills. That’s where the money is.
He did say that when the machine starts inflating, though, I should make sure to sit still and relax my arm.
But it goes off randomly. That’s the whole point.
So I said, “You clearly don’t want me to do anything today. You want me to take it easy.”
And he said, “No, go about your day.”
I said, “I can’t sit down in middle of the supermarket and take it easy.”
To start, the guy gave me a choice: Did I want the cuff on my writing arm or my tefillin arm? But not in those words. So I picked my dominant arm, which happens to be my left. I reasoned that I don’t really use my dominant arm much more than my non-dominant arm. I don’t really write that much. With a pen. I don’t play baseball. If you throw something at me without warning just to see which arm I’d put up to catch it, it would probably hit me in the face. What do I do with my dominant arm? Put tefillin on my non-dominant arm, I guess. That’s about it.
Somehow, I forgot about eating.
The cuff is attached to a tube, which goes around, behind your neck, to a huge monitor on your belt. Well, on my belt. I actually got a choice. He said, “You could wear it around your neck, or you could wear it on your belt. I suggest your neck.”
So I said, “I’m not going to wear it around my neck.” I have no desire of announcing to the world that I’m doing this. And yes, I’m aware that I’m announcing it to the world in this article. But I’m telling you my story in order. You’re not just seeing me wearing something weird and wondering what it is.
“I saw Mordechai Schmutter in the store today. He had the weirdest pedometer.”
So I said, “I have to go to the store.”
So he said, “Then wear it under your shirt.”
And I said, “That’s ridiculous. It’s two inches thick. They’re going to think I’m shoplifting band-aids.”
So the guy removed the neck strap and said he wanted to hold onto it, quote, “So you won’t lose it.” Like he knows me. He’s trusting me with a piece of equipment that I later found out costs $2,000, but he’s afraid I’m going to lose the $5 strap.
So I said, “I need the strap.”
And he asked, “Why? The monitor’s on your belt.”
So I said, “You want me to wear this for 24 hours, right? I don’t have a belt on my pajamas.”
Then he said, “Under no circumstances should you push these three buttons that are jutting out in the front of the monitor.”
While I’m going about my day. Normally.
And as soon as I got into the car and put on my seatbelt, I heard a button get pushed. This is what happens when you wear it on your belt. On the right side of your body.
I actually asked him on the spot: “If I accidentally push a button, does it change the settings? How do I undo it?”
And he said, “Don’t push it. Resist the urge.”
And I said, “It’s not about the urge. I’m asking what if I push it by accident?”
So he said, “Why do you want to push these buttons so badly?”
I don’t. But things happen. Buttons get pressed. I know this, because I carry a voice recorder, and sometimes, my pocket will suddenly start talking, and the person near me will go, “What is that?” and I’ll say, “I don’t know,” and I’ll stop and wonder why it sounds like me.
So I went about my day, with the cuff randomly going off, and there’s definitely a certain amount of stress in knowing that this cuff can go off at any minute. And I don’t want to be doing anything stressful when it happens, so I’m trying to get that stuff done in between, and then suddenly it goes off. It’s kind of like playing “Red Light Green Light” randomly, over the course of the day, where whenever it goes off, I have to stop and find somewhere to sit down. And I couldn’t always do that. For example, it went off when I was carrying sodas into the house. My cuff arm was flexed, and I was trying to make sure the plastic bags didn’t rip. It was not a great time.
I also had the question of if I’m standing in a store and it suddenly starts inflating, should I stand absolutely still, sit on the floor where I am, or run around looking for a seat? Will the running make it worse? What if I’m on line at the cashier?
And what if it goes off in middle of Shemoneh Esrei?
And yes, the monitor does give a little warning beep before it starts inflating, but that isn’t enough time. It’s basically enough time to go, “What was that?” And then it starts inflating. I’m the same guy who goes, “What was that?” to my voice recorder, and I’ve had that for years.
So basically, every time it went off, I was seized by some kind of panic. But I figured that at least I would have all that sleeping time later, which was the point of this test in the first place. But then, when I woke up the next morning, my first thought was, “I don’t think it went off at all last night.”
And that wasn’t the only indication I got that the guy didn’t know what he was doing. I’d actually looked up the instructions before I went to bed, and that’s when I realized that:
- It turns out the company had not idiotically put on buttons that could be accidentally pushed by the patients. The buttons were FOR the patients. I don’t think this technician knew what the buttons actually did.
- I wasn’t specifically supposed to drop everything and stay still during the readings.
- He was supposed to give me a diary so I could write what I was doing every time it went off:
- “Running for a place to sit.”
- “Running for a place to sit.”
- “Running with soda bottles.”
Anyway, the doctor called me the next day and said, “Okay, so I looked at your results, and it’s a little high.”
And I said, “Before you go on, are you aware that it didn’t go off a single time after midnight?”
And he said, “How do you know?” Like I wasn’t there.
So I said, “Well, I went to bed at 2.”
So he looked and said, “Hey, you’re right! But your average is still high, so we’re giving you pills.”
I’m like, “So you’d rather believe that I have no idea what a blood-pressure test feels like than think that maybe you didn’t notice that I did an entire 24-hour test in 13 hours?”
He’s like, “I just looked that the average.”
So I said, “Eight hours of sleep would’ve given me a better average.”
He’s like, “I think no matter what happened, you were going to refuse to take another pill.”
I said, “I think no matter what happened, you were going to assign me another pill.”
But he didn’t like how worked up I was getting. So he said, “What would happen if you took your blood pressure right now?”
And that’s how I ended up on another pill.
So basically, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no good time to measure blood pressure, and that’s why so many people (46% of adults) come out high. If not for blood pressure tests, it would be way fewer people. Just people who have to deal with doctors.