I have obtained a blood pressure monitor. Whenever I feel the urge, I strap it on and take a reading.
This can get quite compulsive, although I am not sure why. It does not make me feel better: there’s no rush of adrenaline, or sudden warmth, or a mysterious, inexplicable calmness.
It is more like a driving curiosity: trying to work out what time of day gives the best results. I have not managed this yet – the readings vary alarmingly. Should I take it just after having a bath, just after getting up, just after a meal or while watching television? Should I try to catch myself by surprise? Not easy.
Of course there is the additional complication of not knowing what it means. Say I have 130/97. I have no idea what is 130, or what is 97, and why one should be above the other.
When it comes down to it, I am simply trying to get both as low as possible, because I know that is what doctors like. I guess there is a point below which is advisable not to venture. Zero blood pressure does not sound good.
I like to try to keep my doctor happy (I should say doctors, because one rarely sees the same one twice in succession: the appointment system seems to prevent this). As it is well known that doctors are obsessed by blood pressure, especially if you are over 60, getting it right sometimes allows you to mention any other problem that you might have, like feeling lousy all the time. As the latter does not involve statistics, doctors tend not to be too interested.
I met a nurse the other day who took my blood pressure. She took it twice, actually, and it was much better the second time. Possibly this was because she had been chatting to me about how I felt. It did make me feel a bit better – or a bit more optimistic.
Of course there is a limit to what nurses can do. Doctors don’t like them to get above themselves; so they can’t diagnose or prescribe anything, even though they’re probably good at both those things. What she did do was make an appointment for me to see …well, a doctor.
This does seem an awful waste of NHS resources. But I shall continue taking my blood pressure in the hope that the doctor will be distracted enough by my good results to listen to my symptoms without realising she’s doing it. At the moment I feel I’m more likely to die of feeling lousy than high blood pressure. But don’t try telling a doctor that. She (or he) will laugh in your face.