Cake and Blood Pressure

Cake and Blood Pressure

I haven’t had a slice of cake in 2 weeks. For me, that’s a record. 


I am a certified sugar addict. My drugs of choice? Cake and ice cream. Nevertheless, I decided to slash my sugar intake after my cousin had a stroke last month. We’re the same age. It scared me shitless. (Which is one way to lose weight, I guess.) My doctor thinks I am borderline for having high blood pressure and recommended medication, but I refused and instead decided to eat better and exercise for natural results—because the only thing that scares me more than a stroke is medication and its long-term side effects. Oh, and clowns. Nobody likes them. The thing about doctors is that they’re trained to quickly fix the current problem without worrying about the long-term effects of the treatment administered. I, therefore, soaked up as much knowledge as I could about blood pressure and investigated my options.

So, What Exactly Is High Blood Pressure?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg or less. If your measurements consistently rise above this range, you may receive a high blood pressure diagnosis. Clinically, the College of Cardiology/American Heart Association defines high blood pressure as 130/80 or higher. At my most recent visit to the doctor’s office, my blood pressure was 132/89. This is one area in my life where I do not want to be an overachiever.

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure develops over time due to unhealthy lifestyle choices: such as a lack of regular exercise, poor sleep habits, and an unhealthy diet (such as those high in salt, fat, and/or cholesterol). In addition, certain health conditions such as diabetes and obesity can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. Some people are likely to experience high blood pressure due to genetics. (Yep, thank your parents for that one.) Concerning its impact, high blood pressure gradually increases the pressure of blood flowing through the arteries and thus causes the arteries to become damaged, hardened, and narrower. This can limit blood flow throughout the body and may cause a blockage. It doesn’t take any hardcore research to know that ain’t good.

What Happens If High Blood Pressure Is Left Untreated?

High blood pressure doesn’t cause any noticeable signs or symptoms, but can negatively impact the entire body. For example, arteries damaged by high blood pressure can lead to harmful heart-related impacts such as coronary disease, chest pain, heart attack, and heart failure. Restricted blood flow from high blood pressure can also cause erectile dysfunction or damage to the brain (e.g., strokes, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia). It can also cause Kidney damage and can lead to chronic kidney disease or kidney failure. Heart failure? Erectile dysfunction? Dementia? Reminds me of some past relationships I’d like to forget.

How Can I Prevent Or Manage High Blood Pressure?

According to the CDC, you can successfully keep high blood pressure at bay by exercising regularly, eating a nutritious diet, managing stress, and maintaining a healthy weight. (I wish we could add a daily slice of red velvet to this list.) After all, a high blood pressure diagnosis is so stressful, it makes you want to eat cake! It’s a vicious yet delicious cycle. You can also manage high blood pressure by taking medication. If you live a healthy lifestyle but still have high blood pressure due to hereditary factors, your best option is to take medication. And then send your parents an angry text.

Which Side Effects Are Associated With Blood Pressure Medication?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many people who take medication to manage their high blood pressure do not experience any side effects at all. However, this medicine can sometimes cause headaches, dizziness, and gastrointestinal problems. 


Based on the experiences of my family members who take this medication, I’m aware that the potential side effects are unpleasant. Wishing to sidestep these, I set out to live a life free of medication (and any other medical intervention, for that matter) and therefore chose the more complex route instead of the “quick fix” for my condition. When my doctor recommended I monitor my blood pressure and get better sleep, I decided to follow through on this advice and buy an at-home blood pressure monitor. (For reference, check out this list of the best at-home blood pressure equipment.) And since I was experiencing stress and not eating/sleeping well or exercising, I’ve since made it a priority to improve my diet, sleep hygiene, and exercise habits (because I think the best remedy for stress is simply not dying in the process). Now, I am slowly learning how to meditate and live a less stressful life: preferring a natural and holistic lifestyle over meds and our country’s wonderful healthcare system.

I made it a priority to get 8 hours of sleep every night and have adopted a vegan diet rich in fruits and veggies—and less cake. I practice intermittent fasting, meditate, and walk five days a week. Plus, I kept a detailed record of my blood pressure and the quantity of sleep I got over three months, during which I decided to live in Jamaica and not work. I understand this is a very specific solution (and one not prescribed by doctors). Now, when I wake up in the mornings, my blood pressure is an (award-winning) 120/80. During the day and at night, this rises to around 132/89. Now if that isn’t proof that our days are stressful, I don’t know what is.

How It All Worked Out

Despite the progress noted earlier, of course, life happens and nothing goes according to plan. I was forced to leave Jamaica after only one month because my mom needed chemotherapy and refused to use the services of a home health aide. 


Today, my blood pressure is 131/88. It’s not where I want it to be, but at least it’s not getting higher. I’m not sleeping well again, and I’m eating more cake (though I have lost weight since this whole experiment started). Either way, I’m concerned that my blood pressure progress has stalled since last month and will therefore continue to use my at-home equipment for monitoring purposes. I’ve also decided to return to the doctor and get that medication to wash down with a big slice of cake. Because “stressed” is just “desserts” spelled backward, and we’re all doing the best we can.

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