Tuesday, December 17, 2013

a small thing

Come back when your numbers are fatter!

A small thing -- a big thing. An oft-repeated thing. A clichéd thing. I don't care. How many times have I had my blood pressure taken in my life? Hundreds. I'm 47.

Almost every single time -- and I mean every time, no matter who's taking it -- whether they're familiar to me or not -- the person who's taking it says in surprise: "Oh, that's low." Every time.

My blood pressure is almost always in the average/low range. But still, surprised commentary ensues. I've had my blood pressure taken a lot recently and apparently I am the most surprising thing people have encountered since uhhhh I don't know. (Are there any surprises anymore?) Since the black-footed ferret came off the extinction list. I don't know.

I have had medical staff say everything up to and almost including "Come back when your blood pressure's fatter" to me in response to my readings: "It must be a fluke" -- "This must be an anomaly" -- "Now it must be normal" (when I'm having white-coat syndrome). When I say something to try to help contextualize the readings I get silence, or a snort, or sometimes outright disbelief, which manifests as the snort, or a sigh, or an antagonized-but-held-in-check meaningless response. You get a lot of the latter as a fatty at the doctor's, and it always takes a moment for it to sink in for me: they think I'm lying.

So here's what I want to say:

Medical staff aren't paying enough attention to me if they are surprised by my blood pressure readings every time. Medical staff are not contextualizing variations from my usual norm well if they expect high readings. This is a problem.

But really: people aren't paying enough attention to fat people if they are always surprised by this. I know a lot of fat people who have the same experience. It's not actually that unusual.

But REALLY I'm saying: DATA. Data. Information. Numbers. Blood pressure numbers are just one measurement, but because it's a number, like all data: let's listen to them, okay? Let them talk first? Notice what they do.

Otherwise, why Science at all?


  1. Sounds like the doctor who told me that my historically low blood pressure has always been "in the high lows".

    Umm... isn't that NORMAL?

  2. When a slim to average size person presents with hypertension, it's usually chalked up as being idiopathic, because most of the time the reason for it can't be found. However, larger people's hypertension is always blamed on their size.
    I'm a big man in my mid forties, and my blood pressure is in the normal range. However, hypertension runs in my family--in people of all sizes.
    The trend of blaming larger people for whatever goes wrong with them is a distressing one, and it discourages larger people from seeking medical treatment. My fiance is a physician's assistant, and people are always surprised when he doesn't bring up their weight and instead looks at the data he receives from the symptoms they are describing, or from tests and other readings that have been taken. That is a sad commentary on the state of today's medical system.

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