I have had hypertension my entire life. This is due to a combination of genetics and an aortic coarctation I had repaired at age 2. Every childhood sports physical ended with me getting referred to our families physician for medical clearance to participate in activities. By the time I got into my late teens and twenties, high blood pressure was a topic I discussed with my physician every annual exam. Due to my age, and being otherwise healthy, it was never treated. When I got into my thirties, my readings kept rising (averaging 150/90). It became time to intervene.
At age 32, upon getting a new doctor, I was open and honest. I explained that my elevated blood pressure was a chronic issue that seemed to be escalating. I discussed how I exercised religiously, drastically reduced my sodium intake, had tried supplements such as coq10, and increased my potassium intake – all to no avail. I also shared that I work in a high stress environment (hospital) and challenging days seemed to worsen my condition. My anxiety levels were trending upward too. My physician reassured me that I was human, and that we all experience stress similarly. He emphasized that this was very treatable. He told me he had good results using beta blockers with patients in similar scenarios.
I’ll admit, I hated the idea of taking medication. As an internet research junkie, I have read horror stories (some legit, many questionable) about side effects of various pharmaceuticals. Plus, I work around patients that take many drugs, and still have alot of problems. My specific knowledge of beta blockers instantly made me envision myself becoming lethargic, fat, and unable to get an erection. Who would want to gamble with those issues? I enjoy being in shape; I need energy for my job and family; and erections…well I don’t really need to explain that.
My perceptive doctor must have sensed my concern. He proceeded to tell me about a newer generation beta blocker called Bystolic (nebivolol). He explained that many of his patients had significantly less side effects with this particular drug. It didn’t seem to sap people of energy, it didn’t cause significant weight gain, and it acted as a vasodilator (think Viagra) . He winked, exclaiming “men love it”. As an added bonus, Bystolic has a calming effect. I was convinced; I agreed to give it a shot.
I was prescribed the lowest therapeutic dose (5mg). Upon taking Bystolic, I noticed a profound drop in my blood pressure and pulse rate (now 120/80 and 55). Text book perfect – I had never had readings this good. I was strangely at peace with the world. My anxiety seemed to be smothered by mellow. I gave a talk to 60 nursing students and medical faculty one afternoon and I don’t think my pulse ever budged. At other times, the vasodilator effect became apparent. I felt like a post pubescent teenager again. When I worked out my muscles became engorged with blood and my veins visible. The only negatives I observed were odd nightmares, feeling really tired, and a being a little clumsy. Fortunately, all of these unwanted effects mostly faded after two weeks.
I have now been taking Bystolic for over 4 months. Overall, I would rate this medication as very effective for the purposes of lowering blood pressure and reducing anxiety. I do find it takes a little more effort to get motivated, but I am adjusting. I still get done what needs to be accomplished – just without sweaty palms, a pumping pulse, and a pounding head.