Suzanne Tobias

Lesson learned: Take care of yourself — before you have to

Suzanne Perez Tobias
Suzanne Perez Tobias The Wichita Eagle

There were plenty of candidates for what could have caused my blood pressure to spike recently.

This year’s crop of presidential candidates, perhaps. A new exercise regimen. Stress on the job. Busy teenagers and all the fretting and running around they require.

But when the nurse during a routine checkup checked the cuff and said, “Whoa,” I knew I was in trouble.

Without going into too many details, I’ll just say that I learned a lot about anatomy and the wonders of modern medicine recently.

I learned that kidneys help regulate blood pressure, that a kinked-up artery in one of your kidneys can send your blood pressure through the roof, and that you can walk around without a clue it’s happening — no symptoms, no problems, no worries, right?

“That’s why they call it the silent killer,” my doctor said.

High blood pressure affects nearly a third of Americans, causing an estimated 60,000 deaths a year. Almost 20 percent of those with high blood pressure don’t know they have it because it typically has no symptoms.

That means thousands of people don’t even know they’re at risk for stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, eye disease and a host of other problems.

I was fortunate to have gone to the doctor when I did, for an overdue physical I didn’t think I needed.

That check led to an appointment with a cardiologist, which led to a procedure that reopened my renal artery and got my blood flowing in all the right ways and at a reasonable pressure again. Thank goodness for great doctors and stent technology.

Talking to a friend before my recent procedure, I marveled at how strange and complicated the human body can be. She mentioned another friend who had been delaying checkups, avoiding the doctor, assuming that no symptoms meant no problems.

“You have a great opportunity here,” she told me, “to remind your readers about the importance of regular checkups.”

Another friend recently shared on Facebook that she was being treated for some pre-cancerous moles on her skin.

“You know how this gets me on a public health kick against melanoma,” she wrote. “Wear sunscreen and stop tanning!”

Wow. This isn’t exactly “crazy things my kids said” or “here’s a great new crockpot recipe,” the stuff of which this column is built.

But yes, they are life lessons and timely reminders. And they’re worth sharing with those you love.

Take care of yourself. Get your blood pressure checked. Public service announcement over.