When Your Blood Pressure Reaches 180/100 Sell

I have never been in the best of shape. You can certainly say I am in a shape; it's called round. Of course, when I was younger, I had a lot more muscle. Over time, I traded some of that muscle for fat (got a great two-for-one deal down at the fat store). But with that weight gain came a variety of issues -- the worst being high blood pressure. I've been on medication for a while and it's normally under control. I take a measurement at home and most often it's within an acceptable range. At least, what I consider an acceptable range; as long as my head does not explode I'm good.

Every six months my doctor's office insists on seeing me for blood work and general review (it's annoying how they are trying to keep me alive). On my visit last year, I stepped on the scale and was shocked by how much weight I had gained (beer, scotch, and pizza is bad for you? Why am I always the last to know?).

After that unwanted revelation, I have done my best since then to lose weight. I changed my diet (goodbye pizza, old friend), started exercising more (well, started exercising), and over time actually noticed an improvement. Not everyone thinks it is an improvement, this lifestyle change.

"All you ever eat anymore is protein shakes and scotch," my ex-wife Arlene said to me last time I saw her. She is convinced I'm am somehow anorexic. If you're a 250-pound anorexic, you're not doing it right.

"The only time you get a good meal is when I cook it for you," she continued. This happens to be true and I welcome the free food; she is an excellent cook.

Then she added, "It doesn't matter, you'll just put all the weight back on when you start eating normally again." There was the love and support I missed from not being married.

When the doctor's office called and said it was time for my checkup, I actually looked forward to it. Twenty fewer pounds of me stepped on that scale and the nurse was happy to see the improvement. She led me to Examination Room #1, closed the door behind us, and went for the blood pressure machine.

Even though I took my blood pressure that morning, and it was fine, I knew it was going to be high. I was not wrong.

"This is not good," she said and placed the machine back on the wall. "The doctor will see you shortly."

Ominous words as she left me alone in the room.

The doctor will see me shortly, but which doctor? The practice I go to likes to play the American Medical Association's version of 'Mystery Date'. Who is going to step through that door? 'Formal Dance Date' doctor or 'Dud' doctor? No wonder my blood pressure was so high.

While I waited for my 'date' to appear I started doing deep breathing exercises and stared out the window trying to find my happy place. People outside the door probably thought I was going into labor.

The 'Mystery Date' doctor that stepped through the door was a very attractive woman in her 30s; that did not help with my blood pressure problem.

After answering a few questions she wrapped the blood pressure cuff around my arm and began to pump air into the machine.

And pump.

And pump.

"This is not good," she said.

She told me my blood pressure was 180/100. I explained that I get nervous and she suggested we give it a few minutes then try again. She was right, on the next reading it was 160/110.

"See," I smiled, "it worked. The top number went down."

She was not amused. A few more minutes passed and I assured her it was never this bad when I took my blood pressure readings at home (and they are not, I swear). The doctor finally let me leave, probably hoping that when I did have my stroke it wouldn't be in her office and I'd be someone else's problem.

Back at work I looked up what might be the cause of my reaction and found it actually had a name: 'White Coat Syndrome' (I have a syndrome!). This is when just being in a medical environment causes a person's blood pressure to rise to a dangerously high level.

Either I have 'White Coat Syndrome' or I have what my friend Sparkle has assessed of my situation. She gave me her diagnosis as we walked out to our cars that night after work.

"I know exactly what is wrong with you, Al," she said. "You're a pussy."

What can I say; you can't argue with science.

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