Thursday, June 16, 2016

Dave The Doper?

It never fails. If you take your bike to the shop because it’s shifting badly, then it will shift perfectly for the mechanic. If you take your body to the doctor’s office for some internal complaint, then that complaint won’t manifest itself during your visit. The latter situation happened to me on Wednesday morning.

Back on May 23, there was one black mark on an otherwise outstanding physical examination: my blood pressure. On Wednesday I had a follow-up visit under less than ideal circumstances. I was just 2 hours removed from a work shift that concluded with considerable stress. A bad blood pressure reading would have been no surprise. What I got instead was one of the best readings I have had in the last 4 weeks … and I have been checking at least once every day. No pattern has emerged from all the data—day of week, time of day, etc.—and we’re not talking about numbers that are always high. Most of them are just high enough to merit attention.

Many of the lifestyle factors associated with high blood pressure don’t apply to me. I don’t smoke. I’m not obese. I don’t add salt to my food. I get a lot of physical exercise. OK, there is more work-related stress today than there was in the recent past, but I suspect my genes are the real issue. I can’t prove that, though, as I was adopted as an infant and have no family medical history. Whatever the case, I need to confront the problem.

I will be taking hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic, as prescribed by my doctor. The idea is to flush sodium from the body and, I’m told, I can expect a 10-point drop in my blood pressure. That’s enough to get back into the normal range consistently. Hopefully I will respond well to this treatment and won’t require more aggressive drugs. Hydrochlorothiazide can have some undesirable side effects, but I expect good results.

Diuretics, in general, and hydrochlorothiazide, in particular, have been used by cyclists and other athletes as masking agents. Because hydrochlorothiazide can obscure the presence of banned, performance-enhancing drugs, hydrochlorothiazide itself is banned, both in competition and out of competition. But I get to take it—hell, I don’t even need a Therapeutic Use Exemption—not because I’m special but because I’m not special. The US Anti-Doping Agency classifies me as a non-national level competitor, for whom diuretics are expressly permitted.

I am important to my family and maybe even to a few friends and for their sake I will follow doctor’s orders. But as a bicycle racer I am just a little fish in a big pond that soon will be augmented with my own salty pee.

1 comment:

  1. I feel your pain. Like you, I'm fit, don't smoke, don't drink, eat well (thanks to my wife), and typically get decent rest, but my blood pressure is always high. About the only thing I haven't done to try to control it is quit my job :-/

    Although I'm not sure if there's any validity to this or not, one article I read about high blood pressure indicated that a lack of overall flexibility can contribute to the problem. I.e., if your body isn't flexible, your arteries aren't either. I've been a cyclist my whole life and always hated stretching, so I'm insanely inflexible. I started stretching over the winter and ironically my blood pressure seems to be down a little bit, but correlation isn't necessarily causation.