As I inch my way up to my 50s, I look back at the last 10 years and how I ended up in the hospital a handful of times thinking I was suffering a heart attack. It turns out that every time I made the hospital journey, I simply had a gastritis issue that caused pain in the middle of my chest radiating to the middle of my back. With medication and a sensible diet, I have been able to keep the stomach condition at bay.

Regardless, the first time I ended up in the emergency room, I realized I was going to have to make a change in my life. This would be no ordinary transition, either. I was still holding on to the old habits of my free-spirited life as a weekend barbecue and social drinking warrior. Almost every weekend, you would find me chomping down on plenty of red meat and sipping Cruzan rum and cokes! When it came to football season, forget it; I was the life of the party eating salsa and chips and drinking Coronas!

Throughout the last 10 years, I figured out I had gained an average of 5 pounds each year causing me to balloon up to 270 pounds. As a result, I began snoring loudly, evidenced by a video taken by my irritated wife who was having trouble sleeping at night. I was also feeling unusually tired all the time.

Even though I had excellent insurance, I was reluctant to go get a check up with my doctor. Finally, after many sleepless nights and far too many heart palpitations, my wife made an appointment for me.

During the physical, my doctor remarked on how long it been since he had last seen me and how heavy I had become. He also noticed my blood pressure had skyrocketed from a fairly normal 125/83 to a whopping 143/97! He had the nurse take my blood pressure at 10 minute intervals and they were all conclusive. In the end, I was suffering from hypertension, due to my excess weight and high cholesterol levels.

My biggest wake up call came recentlyPeople of all ages should routinely check their blood pressure and cholesterol levels through their physicians.. when a 57-year-old female friend suddenly died of cardiac arrest. She had been suffering from high blood pressure for the previous 10 years and was fairly heavy and evidently, it caught up to her. Additionally, a 47-year-old head custodian at my wife’s workplace died in his sleep and his death was attributed to cardiac arrest due to high blood pressure and diabetes. He was also significantly overweight but by all accounts, a workhorse who always got the job done!

Keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check is no joke at all. I urge you to get a check up as soon as possible if you haven’t already and don’t be afraid to take medication if necessary.

Exercising 30 minutes a day is relatively easy, yet most of us don’t make the time to get it done. All you have to do is put a nice set of headphones on and walk around your neighborhood for 30 minutes every afternoon or evening.

For me, the combination of bicycling for 30 minutes from Monday through Friday and taking my high blood pressure medication ‘Benicar’ has done the trick. My cholesterol levels have dropped significantly over the last three years and my high blood pressure is a thing of the past.

By the way, you don’t have to be a middle-aged man like me to go what I went through; men and women of all ages would be wise to have their blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked, too!