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Life Reduced to a Banana

I have high blood pressure.

Admittedly, I’ve been a bit cavalier about the problem. Most of my family on both sides have died from heart-related issues or stroke, precipitated by high blood pressure. Why should I be any different? However, when it comes right down to it, I don’t have a death wish either. So, when my doctor told me that it was time for diet, exercise, and a diuretic, I took her seriously.

After a month on the water pill, I checked into the doctor’s office only to discover that my pressure was as high as it had been on my first visit. That was how I got introduced to an ACE inhibitor. This little goodie is prescribed for people with high blood pressure, those who suffer from heart failure or who have suffered heart attacks, as well as to prevent further damage in people who have suffered kidney problems caused by diabetes or hypertension. The free samples she gave me from her office stash turned out to be a combo-pack: the ACE Inhibitor plus a water pill. Take one a day with orange juice and eat a banana. Case closed.
Then the cynic in me kicked in.

Pill-pushing propaganda bugs me. You know, the commercials that tell us how wonderful this treatment is for whatever ails us. Then in the last five seconds, they warn us about the side effects. Usually the side effects are worse than the disease. Death is a pretty hard side effect to recover from!

I went online to find out all I could about high blood pressure and the medication that my doctor had prescribed. I was also curious about the orange juice and the banana. It wasn’t an issue of lack of trust; it was simply a matter of making informed decisions about my own health care.

You probably already know that people who are taking that little water pill lose a lot of water. The idea is to flush the salt out of the body – salt is often blamed for contributing to high blood pressure (though there is a lot of debate on that subject and my doctor didn’t even mention leaving it out of my diet)! However, the body also loses a lot of potassium along with that salt. And apparently, not getting enough potassium can be dangerous to our health. Bananas, along with orange juice, are excellent sources of potassium though they certainly aren’t the only places we can get it.*

At this point in my research, things got interesting. Blood pressure medication has side effects** in a FEW people – some of which are fairly nasty. My doctor specifically told me to watch out for an unusual cough – so I spent the next two weeks wondering which of my coughs was “regular” and which was “dangerous.” As it turned out, they were all “regular.”

I also reasoned that if one banana was good to replace the potassium I was losing, maybe I should be taking potassium supplements. My research revealed that too much potassium is perhaps worse than not enough. I decided to stick to one banana a day and eat healthily.

What about any interaction between my ACE inhibitor and the other pills I take to thin my blood, oil my creaky joints and ease my arthritis? My investigation put those concerns to rest. There might be some reaction, but no proof that any interaction makes a significant difference. If in doubt, ask the pharmacist (who told me that with my “ACE-in-the-hole,” I should wear sun-screen. Now THAT was a novel twist!).
I returned to my doctor’s office several weeks after beginning the new medication. It was working.

Summoning up my courage, I asked her about the dangers associated with the drug I was taking. She turned to me and said:

“The possible side effects of taking the medication are not nearly as bad as what will happen to you if you don’t take it!” Good point.

God will take me when He’s ready, but there is no need to be foolish in the meantime. I’ll take my pill, watch my weight, walk more, check in with my doctor once in a while – and eat my banana.

Foods high in potassium include bananas, cantaloupe, grapefruit, oranges, tomato or prune juice, honeydew melons, prunes, molasses and potatoes. Some foods high in potassium are also high in calories. When weight control is important, eat more low-calorie foods. Foods such as fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products are high in potassium and calcium. (Source: The American Heart Association)

The most common side effects are cough, elevated blood potassium levels, low blood pressure, dizziness, headache, drowsiness, weakness, abnormal taste (metallic or salty taste), and rash. (Source: WebMD)

by Lynda Schultz