Action Heart: a follow-up

I had my first session in the superbly equipped hospital gym Monday 7 December. Everyone walks up to a bank of blood pressure machines as they enter. Because this was my first visit, I also had a portable ECG monitor strapped to my waist and a series of contacts attached at intervals around my chest. The equipment sent information by a wireless link to the hospital system during my session. The staff already had my history in their file which they had clearly studied. They finally printed out a graph which, too, goes in my file.

Everything was OK and my closing B.P. was 116/76. My opening BP was 140 over something which is as high as they wish it to go. I travel to hospital on public transport, a journey requiring two bus routes. This being my first trip, I began to think, at one point, I was going to be late. This illustrates how insidious stress can be. In my case, because I’m a punctuality freak anyway, the prospect of being late caused me extra anxiety.

I’ve got the times sorted now, so I’ll be OK next time. Unless one of the buses is late!

The session begins with a warm-up procedure not unlike those pictures we often see of old-timers (like me) staying healthy, followed by sessions on cycles, treadmills and other exercises. I’m required to register the degree of hardship on a little card I carry with me as they turn up the dials, which also records my blood pressure at the start and end of the session. It’s my responsibility to read the data to the reception staff before I leave. This is all part of a growing tendency over here to expect patients to be actively involved in their treatment. Or are they just shifting part of the blame?

On the subject of stress, I have an appointment with a counsellor 21 December. I know, because I’ve tried and failed, that I need help, here. An over-active mind is the culprit, I believe, and I was interested to read that many of our favourite physicists suffered in a similar way, many of them turning to alcohol as a solution. Not that I’m claiming to be as clever as Richard Feynman. I wish…

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