Profile of Hope: Debra Jackson talks about her diagnosis with high blood pressure (hypertension)

Editor June 14th, 2011

Debra Jackson is native resident of Harlem, an active member of her church and a part of the Harlem Health Promotion Center's Community Advisory Board (CAB). Debra has been living with high blood pressure for over 25 years, but it wasn't until last year that she started to make lifestyle changes to help her lower her blood pressure.

Q: When were you diagnosed with high blood pressure and what was that experience like for you?

A: I was diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension) in my mid-20's and I am now in my late-50's. I have been living with high blood pressure for over 25 years. Initially, at an annual check-up, a nurse told me that my blood pressure was higher than it should be and that I needed to take steps to lower my blood pressure. When she told me this, I was in denial and did not want to deal with it. I couldn't believe that somebody who was my age at the time would have to worry about high blood pressure or changing my lifestyle. I refused to accept the fact that I needed to make these changes because of this disease.

I've always been one to see a doctor regularly and every few years after that, he would tell me that my blood pressure was getting higher and higher. I knew what I had to do to lower it, but I was having too much fun to make any lifestyle changes. My doctor finally prescribed me medication to help lower my blood pressure and that's when I decided that I could no longer ignore it. So I paid enough attention to take the medication, but since I figured the medication was doing everything, I didn't think it was necessary to change my diet or increase the amount of exercise I was doing. It wasn't until a little over a year ago that I started to gradually change my diet and lifestyle to help control my blood pressure.

Q: How did you start making changes to help lower your high blood pressure?

A: Before last year, I only made a few tiny changes to my lifestyle. For instance, I removed the cheese from a breakfast sandwich, but continued to eat the meat. I figured the medication was helping me control my high blood pressure (hypertension) so any other changes I made, no matter how small, were helpful. Turns out I was wrong and that these changes weren't enough to improve my health.

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To listen to our interview with Debra Jackson, click here.

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