It’s called the silent killer for a reason. As high blood pressure usually has no symptoms, the first sign you’ve got it could be a heart attack or a stroke. That’s why Blood Pressure UK is encouraging all of us to test our blood pressure this week, to reach the 6 million people nationwide who have hypertension and don’t yet know it.
The good news is, as weight is a major factor in reducing blood pressure, there’s a lot you can do to reduce your risk. Paul discovered exactly that when he joined Slimming World. After years of dieting without success, Paul had given up hope of improving his health by slimming – despite his blood pressure climbing to dangerously high levels. Here’s how filling up on hearty meals and getting expert advice in his Slimming World group helped him kick his unhealthy habits and give his lifestyle a reboot.
Sitting across from the GP, I tried to take it all in. I’d just been diagnosed with hypertension – the medical term for high blood pressure – during a routine check-up and now the doctor was patiently talking me through how I could manage the condition by taking daily medication. “Losing weight could also help reduce your risk of further health complications in the future,” he said.
No way is that happening, I thought to myself as I drove home. I’d attempted to lose weight a few times, managing to shed a few stones by cutting out my favourite foods. The trouble was, as soon as I ditched the deprivation diet and went back into my regular takeaway habit, those stones quickly reappeared.
Over the next four years, I got bigger and bigger and my health continued to suffer. As well as my soaring blood pressure, my cholesterol levels were dangerously high and I was referred to a sleep apnoea clinic to investigate why I constantly felt exhausted. My confidence was at rock bottom, too. I took to shutting myself away at home every night, comforting myself with curries made from jarred sauces or takeaway fish and chips.
At my next blood pressure check, I found out I’d have to increase my blood pressure medication once again. The nurse sat me down and said: “I think you’d really benefit from losing weight. Would you like to try a 12-week free membership to Slimming World?” Although I’d lost hope of improving my health by losing weight, I decided I had nothing to lose.
I’d been nervous that I’d be the only man in group, so I was surprised to find that there were a few blokes already there. It wouldn’t have mattered if there hadn’t been, though, as everyone was so friendly and welcoming. As the Consultant, Joanne, explained that I could eat pasta, rice and chicken with no measuring or counting, I began to think that this was something I could stick with.
Straight away I loved my new Slimming World way of eating. There was definitely no deprivation as I tucked into filling recipes like vegetable dhansak or steak and chips. Even my favourite full English breakfast could still be on the menu, and I’d regularly polish off a Slimming World plate of bacon, sausage, egg and beans – you can’t beat a good brekkie!
After eating so well, I couldn’t believe it when I stepped on the scales after my first week and saw I’d lost 8lbs. My GP had told me that getting more active could also help lower my blood pressure and, feeling more energised as the weight continued to come off, I started going for hour-long walks when I got home from work. Those evening strolls gradually turned into weekend hikes with my friends, and a year after joining Slimming World, I signed up to a local gym. And because I was continuing to Food Optimise alongside Body Magic, I kept losing weight week after week.
As the number on the scales lowered, so did my blood pressure. By the time I hit my target weight of 14st 13lbs, my blood pressure was at a healthy level and I was able to reduce my blood pressure medication. The funny thing was, the nurse checking my blood pressure was the same one who’d referred me to Slimming World, but she didn’t recognise me. When I reminded her who I was, she was blown away by my success.
I knew exactly how I wanted to celebrate my clean bill of health. For a long time, my weight had put a dampener on my love of riding my motorcycle – especially as my bike leathers kept getting tighter and tighter. Now, over 12st lighter – and with a new set of (much!) smaller leathers – I booked a spur-of-the-moment trip to the Austrian Alps. Even after an adrenalin-charged day on the road, I still had energy to take in the local sights on foot.
I maintained my target weight for almost two years, but the impact of coronavirus brought fresh challenges to overcome. Although my Slimming World virtual group was a lifeline when I needed it, I missed the special atmosphere and support of a real-life group, and, over lockdown, I slipped back into some old habits, like ordering takeaway curries and drinking more on the weekends. That’s why I’m so pleased to be back in my real-life group. Joanne’s already helped me to put a plan in place and I’m determined to lose 5lbs before I go on holiday in October. I know that, with the support of group, I’ll never go back to how I was before. I dread to think how my health might have suffered if I’d carried on gaining weight. Now, I’ll never have to find out.
We’re thrilled to share how Paul has transformed his health and lifestyle through weight loss. And if you have any questions about how losing weight can help you manage high blood pressure or another health condition, making an appointment with your GP is the best place to start.
Best-ever Slimming World offer for new and existing members
When you commit to a six-week Countdown before 10th October 2020, you’ll receive a FREE copy of our new recipe book, Take 5, Second Helpings, and get six weeks for the price of five. Contact your local Consultant to book your place in group.
We’re also offering £20-off membership packages for our digital-only service, Slimming World Online, as part of the NHS Better Health campaign. Find out more here.
And if you’re currently on your slimming journey or have already achieved your weight loss dreams with Slimming World, we’d love to hear your story.