Today’s Physical

Went in for my annual physical exam (Thanks, Obama). My normal nurse is Nancy who spent most of her working life in the DC Metro area working for the FBI and then moved to the Syracuse area. We usually chat (or as close to chat as I get) about DC and the things we miss. Not today. Today’s it’s Brenda.

Brenda is pleasant and professional. Just like Nancy. She takes my height, weight, temperature and pulse. She updated my medical history. She listed all of the medications showing on her laptop screen.

“B-Complex, Vitamin D, Multivitamin, Lecithin, Niacin, Baby Aspirin.”

Baby aspirin? I thought about how long it has been since I’ve heard it called that. “Low-dose” is the proper term now since only a complete monster would consider giving aspirin to a baby after the Reye’s Syndrome scare. I added the Lisinopril-HCTZ that I occasionally take if my blood pressure gets a bit hinky. She started to make a note but then said “It’s here” as she noticed it on the screen.

Occasional Alcohol use? Social drinker? Yes, I said, social drinker. But then she paused. Her eyes got a bit wide and she read from the screen, “Two to four drinks PER DAY?” When you say it like that it sounds like I’m a degenerate drunk. A character from a 50s film noire that gives the protagonist information in exchange for a shot of whiskey from an unlabeled bottle under the bar.”Two to four?”, I said, “Noooooo. More like one?” She nodded approval. Smoking? No way! I’d conquered that monkey years ago and have the extra 35 pounds to show for it.

I waited for the next question.

I know it’s there on the screen. I gave them the information the first time I came. It’s right there after the question on whether or not I was crazy enough to still be smoking after all these years. I have no problem answering it.

But it never came.

Drug use. Illicit drug use is the next issue on the medical history. I smoke cannabis. It treats my arthritis and, oddly enough, my blood pressure. I was on Vioxx for my arthritis but I know from experience that I am an addictive personality. Opioids are not my friend. I was also on Lisinopril-HCTZ for my blood pressure which I monitor daily since the unfortunate “HE FELL OUT! HE FELL OUT!” Incident at church. My target is 120/80 with concern at 130/90 and panic at 140/100.


I remember that number. The combination of the Lisinopril-HCTZ and the cannabis was keeping my blood pressure at that number. But Lisinopril-HCTZ has an unfortunate and unpleasant side effect on me. If I don’t have to take it, I’d rather not. So, I stopped taking it. and my blood pressure still stays in the 120/80 range with cannabis alone.


I dutifully reported this to my doctor who informed me that cannabis was illegal. I said that was unfortunate. She made her note and we moved on. Since then, Nancy confirms it. Every time I come in. Brenda decided not to ask. Not to confirm what was in my history. Just skip over it. I’m not sure what that meant but I find it interesting. But, I digress…

We moved on to taking my blood pressure. For some reason, she looked at the BP cuff hanging on the wall and said “That’s the wrong cuff. It’s too big. You need the smaller cuff.” Which seemed odd to me. I’m not the largest person in the world but at 6’4″, 240 pounds, I don’t really take a “Small” in anything. But, I’m an American health consumer, so I let the expert do what she was expert at. She removed the “Large” cuff and deftly replaced it with a “Small” cuff. She wrapped it around my right bicep and started inflating. “It seems that your pressure is a little high today. 140 over 100” she exclaimed. “The doctor will be right in.” And left.

Panic at 140/100!

It was 117/83 just yesterday! What has happened?! I feel fine. Am I dying? Is this it? Was I wrong about the cannabis? And, in walked my Doctor. We go over my weight gain of 7 pounds. My Doctor lets me know that we both agree that 7 pounds must go. Now. Further, we agree that it’s back to 30 minutes on the elliptical per day. She sees my blood pressure reading and joins me in the Panic at 140/100!

“I better take it myself. You’ve been taking it everyday right? No spots in front of your eyes? No blurry vision? Fatigue?” Before I can even answer her, she looks at the sphygmomanometer hanging on the wall and calmly says “That’s the wrong cuff. It’s too small. You need the larger cuff.”

Swapped cuffs and 122/83.

There is no science here. None. This is anecdote at its worst. But it is my experience and what has happened for me. It might be worthy information to someone else out there trying to stay away from opioids or off blood pressure medication. It might not be.

Make your own decision.

– Eliot

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