A woman is explaining the connection between the heart and the eyes to another woman.

A Lot Salty

Towards the end of my pregnancy with my son, my blood pressure was really high.

Pregnancy, blood pressure, and preeclampsia

In fact, it was to the point they had to induce me and I gave birth a month early because they feared I was going to develop preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a condition characterized by high blood pressure. I vividly remember the day my doctor informed me that my blood pressure was high. I insisted that he take it again and rattled off all of the psychosocial stressors I was experiencing that most likely impacted my blood pressure.

He was not trying to hear it even though in that moment I was emotional and upset. I am so grateful that he said, “you are not leaving this hospital until you have that baby." Fast forward to my six-week post-birth follow up and my blood pressure was normal. I was so relieved.

My favorite foods

Now, before I go any further... I have a confession. Growing up, and even currently, my three favorite comfort foods are top ramen noodles, hamburger helper beef stroganoff, and fast food Chinese - all of which are high in sodium. I would regularly eat one of the above mentioned at least once a week.

Primary care appointments

Through the years I would attend my annual primary care appointment and my blood pressure would vary. Some visits it was high but when that happened, I would assure the doctor it was due to stress and promised to practice self-care. On other visits it was normal. There is a book called The Body Keeps Score, by Bessel van der Kolk and I believe it is 100% true.

Blurry vision and stress

A few years ago, my vision felt like it was getting worse. I felt like items that were normally pretty clear for me to see felt a little fuzzy. I went to the retinal specialist and they ran tests on me for hours, only to report that physically nothing in my eyes has changed since my last visit. Therefore, my blurry vision was attributed to stress and I went on my way.

Hypertention and medication

Eventually, my primary care provider realized that my pressure was higher than normal. My doctor insisted that I start on a low dose of blood pressure medicine. To be honest, I was embarrassed, scared, and nervous. Embarrassed because I am a social worker who regularly attends medical appointments with clients. I know how important it is to take care of your body. Scared and nervous because I know the statistics surrounding hypertension, specifically with people who look like me.

Up until this point, the only medication I had been prescribed was birth control and that was by choice. The medical assistant at my provider’s office is amazing. She sat with me and she recommended that I put an alarm on my phone that says “TJ needs me” to remind me how important it is to take my medication. She assured me that hypertension is treatable with lifestyle changes.

Blurred vision and hypertension

I did really good for a few months. In fact, when I got my blood pressure taken at my next doctor’s appointment it was back to normal. Therefore, I thought I was cured and decided to stop taking my medicine.

I noticed within that year that there were times that my vision was blurry. I again went to the doctor for my annual appointment. My blood pressure was extremely high and this time they were extremely concerned. I was told if I did not do something about it I would likely have a stroke. My doctor asked me if my vision was blurred or if I had chest pain. I reported that there are times that my vision is blurry, but I attributed it to my Stargardt diagnosis.

At my doctor’s office, there is a woman who works closely with African American women with hypertension. She explained to me what hypertension was and the many ways it impacts the body, specifically vision.

Low sodium diet to protect my vision

This time it hit close to home and after my appointment, I made a decision to immediately make low sodium a part of my lifestyle and sought out new recipes. It is so interesting because it has only been a few days and I can already see the difference in regards to my vision.

It is true that what you put in, will come out. So do your best to put fresh whole foods in so you can put forward the best you... at least that’s the way eye see it.

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