I bought two toys for Christmas. The December 2013 issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter described two small devices designed for home use to help lower blood pressure:
- RESPeRATE, a gadget approved by the Food and Drug Administration to train deep breathing, and
- Zona Plus, a hand-held exercise device that calibrates grip strength.
There is a rapidly growing literature showing that measurements taken by patients at home are often lower than readings taken in the office and closer to the average blood pressure recorded by 24-hour ambulatory monitors, which is the blood pressure that best predicts cardiovascular risk.The 300mg of Avapro was yielding good results, according to my home monitor. But one issue persisted: midday sinking spells, during which my systolic pressure would dip below 100. Occasionally, I felt like I was about to faint.
I found a report from the Parkinson's Disease Foundation that explained "this symptom is common in mid- and late-stage Parkinson’s disease (PD), and it can be quite alarming." Both the PD and the typical levodopa medication can contribute to the problem.
Continuing my research, I found that Avapro shows orthostatic hypotension (dizziness and low bp) on its list of possible side effects!
Since Christmas, I've used RESPeRATE almost every day, and Zona Plus several times a week. RESPeRATE fits nicely into my schedule; after my regular afternoon naps, I take about 10 minutes for the deep breathing exercises. My regular 4-5am quiet time has shown me the great value of my own variety of mindfulness meditation. But I've never had success with deep breathing meditation . . . until I began using RESPeRATE.
And it works.
Even with Avapro, my bp readings were erratic. Some registered well over 150/90, the new guideline for people over 60. When my new toys seemed to stabilize my pressure, I started cutting my Avapro pills in half, taking only 150mg daily. Then, after a week of good, steady readings, I decided to stop taking the Avapro altogether. What the hell.
That was two weeks ago. During this experiment, I've monitored my pressure 4-6 times a day and recorded results in my health journal. Observations so far:
- only four readings over 150
- only one over 160
- only a few below 115
- none below 100
- no dizziness
- These two devices aren't cheap. But neither is a lifetime of popping pills. Plus, deep breathing and gripping exercises don't carry the side effects risks drugs do.
- Everyone is different. What has worked for me may not work for you.
- My trial time -- a month -- is very short. I'll keep monitoring my pressure and check in soon with my internist.