Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Hypertension Fix Pt3

After parts one and two, here comes part 3; changes in physical activity.

After a lay-off from specific goals relating to DL and OACs, I am back to doing what I enjoy and am working on strength training on a 11 day cycle comprising of three workouts:
  1. Monday - Planche and Levers + sprints
  2. Friday - OACs/MUs + Shoulder Prehabilitation
  3. Monday - Deadlifts RPT/Deficit + Wrist Prehabilitation
This gives me several days of rest between 'formal' workouts and allows full recovery.  I am normally busy with other activity in the week (marital arts and climbing), and this approach seems to accommodate my total weekly volume. 

I'm mixing things up and will choose a slightly different rep scheme or exercise between corresponding workouts.  For example, I might do Straight Leg Deadlifts on one workout, but my next deadlift workout I will switch to Straight Leg Deadlifts off a Deficit.  With OACs I will alternate each workout with MUs instead - sometimes on a bar, sometimes with rings. 

Optimal?  Probably not, but it keeps things interesting and entertaining.  My numbers still look good as they ever did.

One improvement has come with my handstanding which has suddenly jumped up in quality.  20s static holds in the sweet spot are the norm.  This is my first indicator that thing are physically looking good.

I no longer do any physically demanding training late in the evening apart from Kung Fu (but no combat, only forms).  Physically, the following changes have been made

  1. Early to bed each night.  I now head to bed at around 2130 most nights with the intention of being asleep by 2200hrs.  Sleep is like a doctor, surgeon, counsellor and life coach all rolled in to one.  I'd go so far as to say that sleep is the most important factor that I have addressed.  If you think you can scrimp on sleep then listen to All in the Mind (or read these links about improved sleep and improved body composition, and, improved sleep and improved immune function).  For me, this is by far the single most important step I have taken in trying to reduce my blood pressure and is heavily intertwined with meditation...
  2. Meditation each night for 30 minutes from 2130-2200hrs.  I try NOT to go to sleep, but to actively relax and empty my mind often whilst listening to a loop of waves breaking on a beach.  This period makes a clear break between the 'buzz' of each day and sleep itself.  (Despite intentions, I usually fall asleep  towards the end of the meditation.)  I liken this to landing the plane before taxiing to 'Terminal Sleep'.
  3. Lots of long walks 10-30 minutes several times a day.  Walking seems to offer a host of benefits, not least simply giving you space to wander and clear your mind.
  4. Swimming and LGKF.  LGKF forms can be used as a form of Tai Chi (internal) and/or Qidong (a practise of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation).  Does it work?  I don't know.  Am I getting better at my LGKF?  Yes!  Swimming generates some very beneficial BP readings and really seems to tire me out in only 20 minutes swim-time.  I don't go hard at this, but I try to keep moving.  My appetite is quite high the evening after a swim, and I sleep VERY that night.
  5. Nature sounds - I've recommended this before for those with their ducks in a row.  Currently my alarm clock is the Dawn Chorus whilst at work I've long favoured a loop of waves breaking on a beach.
  6. No cold showers in the morning.  I am trying to narrow my 'cortisol window'.  This may well be the hormonal root-cause of my problems...
  7. Deep breathing - usually on the 30 minute journey to and from work and during evening meditation.  This is more 'triage' that I undertook early on in my diagnosis to get my numbers down whenever they seemed high.
  8. Alternate-hand powerballing.  There are several studies showing that isometric arm/hand-exercises improve BP numbers.  I've modified several protocols and now do 2 minutes exercise alternately on each hand with a powerball, repeating for a total of four sets (so 16 minutes activity in all).  I try to sustain a high and consistent level of intensity for each two minute rep.  If I had to recommend one powerball it would be the 350Hz model.  This bad boy is the closest you can get to wielding a Gauntlet of Ogre Power.  Truly horrific forces are at work, but unlike the 250Hz and 450Hz models, wrist rotations are slower and more purposeful, thus (I believe), reducing the chance of RSI.  Personally I cycle through all three powerballs each workout (yes I am that sad) - and generally use them 3-4 times a week.  I continue to climb and am mindful that this also imparts isometric stress on my hands and wrists.
Other steps include family time and chilling.  Loved ones can carry you through a heck of a lot.  But, your genes are selfish, so come 2130hrs, I head to bed...

The results have been a dramatic drop in BP to well below medication levels and often in to the 'normal' range of 120/80.  I think that dropping the cold showers and late night training (and so eating) means that my window of activity has diminished and accordingly my cortisol levels aren't chronically elevated. 

I am noticeably leaner (now having to pull back a notch on my belt), with visible vascularity on my lower abdomen.  I've not been trying to lean out, it just seems to be a side-effect of more sleep and relaxation.  Again I guess this is down to lowered cortisol levels.

When I originally dropped DL and OAC goals there was a corresponding drop on appetite.  Post-swimming however, I am often ravenous (and sleep VERY well that same night).  Much of my weight-loss and waist-loss is I suspect, to do with water loss, which ties in with the much improved BP figures.

Bottom line from me is that we are probably being over-exposed to artificial light and need to sleep much more than we are doing.  Your only 'problem' should be how to entertain yourself in a darkened room.

I still fast, although did find this article on Livestrong that made me think (although I am not too concerned by it as I don't get hunger pangs when I fast and I seldom go beyond 16 hours.  Oh yeah, and THIS),
  • The relationship of fasting insulin and blood pressure was examined by a study published in a 1990 issue of "Arteriosclerosis." The study involved 4,576 young adults and the effects of fasting insulin levels on the risk of cardiovascular disease and blood pressure. The study determined that insulin was positively associated with blood pressure. The study also showed that high levels of fasting insulin are associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis in young adults. This suggests that not eating does increase your blood pressure.
I awoke this morning with a 130/72 reading.  In the day sub 140/85 is common, depending on activity and in the evening it goes back to around 130/80.  At night it gets down to around 125/75.   This is still a work in progress but these numbers are vastly improved on what they were in March.   I'm now awaiting an appointment with my doctor to get him to give me a once-over.  I think he might have a surprise coming!


FeelGoodEating said...

Good on YOU!!!

Way to take "smart action".


Chris said...

Great stuff - a really interesting approach

Juan I. said...

I am really happy to read you are overcoming the BP issue. Even don´t we don´t know each other I´ve acquired habits and a lifestyle that are very close to the ones you promote here, and I think your blog has been a guide and a reason to it. So when you told about the hypertension diagnosis I was worried for your health and somehow wanted to share my support but couldn´t find the words. Now that you seem healed words came easier! I am happy for you and send you a sincere and thankful hug. Keep healing and writing! (I´m a sentimentalist, I know...)

Asclepius said...

@All - thank you.