WALK TO THE MAILBOX
“Hypertension Stage 1 is when blood pressure is consistently ranging from 140-159/90-99 mm Hg. At this stage of high blood pressure, doctors are likely to prescribe lifestyle changes and may consider adding blood pressure medication” – American Heart Association Recommendations on Blood Pressure.
In medicine, we have this whole “diet and exercise” recommendation. “Try some diet and exercise and follow-up in 4 weeks and if your blood pressure or cholesterol or blood sugar is still elevated, we’ll start some meds.” Us doctors are very motivating aren’t we(sarcasm implied). I believe the statistic is that less than 5% of patients actually start “diet and exercise.” It does happen though.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m in favor of “lifestyle change.” The problem is that if we just give a bland recommendation to help someone improve their health, something like…exercising 30 minutes a day 5 days a week has been shown to improve your health…and don’t actually help our patients achieve that, then we might as well give them the drugs.
In my second year of residency, my daughter was born. At the same time, a friend of my hurt himself and was on the couch for 2 weeks and his wife had to take care of him and his 12-month-old. That was my trigger to start my own “lifestyle change.” I didn’t join a gym or play pick-up basketball, though. I started with 10 minutes a day of exercise. Just 10 minutes. Push-ups. Sit-ups. Every day, 10 minutes a day.
Eventually, when I had a few extra minutes, 10 minutes turned into 20, then 30 minutes. Then I signed up for a 5K. Then a 10K. Now I’m running 1/2 marathons. It all started with 10 minutes though.
When I’m counseling about “diet and exercise,” this is what I recommend.
Make one change. ONE. Walk to the mailbox twice a day. Start drinking green smoothies. Do 20 jumping jacks every morning. Start with one thing you do, every day and eventually…you’ll find yourself making more healthy changes. Before you know it, you’ll be wearing one of those Kale shirts. It all starts with 10 minutes. Or just walking to the mailbox.