Updated: Jul 10, 2022
Welcome to the next in a series of IAWH HerStories, featuring participants of the 2022 Self-Measured Blood Pressure (SMBP) hypertension control program. These stories are heart-warming and informative and are shared to inspire you as you travel along your health improvement journey. Meet Mini Murphy, a native of North Carolina who will not shy away from the commitment to the combination of healthy diet, physical activity, medication adherence, and improving her health literacy to manage her blood pressure and improve her overall health. Keep reading to learn more about her journey.
Q: Tell us about yourself. For example, where were you born, what you do for a living, your hobbies/interests/activities, how long have you lived where you live now? If you are not native to where you currently live, what brought you there?
A: I was born in rural NC, some 70+ years ago. I belong to the first demographic cohort known as "Baby Boomers". We were born at the close of WWII during a time of great optimism and opportunities. We came of age during a time of great social, cultural, and economic challenges and change. The timing and location of my youth has influenced and defined my values and life's experience. Having lived on a farm in my youth, I was accustomed to eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. We enjoyed seasonal fruit directly from the trees (peaches, apples, berries, and in fall we gathered pecans). Till this day, I don't like refrigerated fruit...there's nothing like the taste of a tomato or cucumber that's warm from the sun.
Today my favorite hobby is experimenting with urban gardening. In addition, I enjoy reading biographies of notable athletes, entertainers, and political figures.
Having lived in Houston, TX, Madrid, Spain, Los Angeles, CA, I have since spent the past 30 years in Alex, VA. I came to the DMV with the intention of working for the Dept. of Education. While waiting for an assignment w/DOE, I was offered a position at a local university. Last fall, I retired after a rewarding 40-year career in higher education.
Q: When were you first diagnosed with hypertension? Many people immediately vow to make changes in their lives and to their lifestyles to avoid taking medication. Some people are shocked and had no idea that they had high blood pressure. What was your reaction?
A: I was first diagnosed with hypertension in 2001, during a routine physical examination. Prior to that I had no symptoms so I had no idea. At that time, I was told that because of family history ("most Black people have high blood pressure"), I assumed that it was not an unusual diagnosis and, without knowing better, I assumed it was just my fate and I willing accepted the advice to begin taking medication. I have been taking the same meds since. To be honest, at the time, I had no awareness of life style/diet modifications except to limit salt intake (which I really did not take too seriously.) I didn't get a blood pressure reading except for annual physical exams or on an occasional visit to the local pharmacy. I've begun taking daily blood pressure readings only since joining the SMBP. Upon reflection, I am amazed at how little knowledge I had back then about basic health literacy.
In the future, I would hope that my health is stable, without debilitating issues. I am committed to doing all that I can do to ensure that outcome.
Q: What steps did you initially take (with or without your health provider) to get your hypertension under control? Were these methods at all successful? Often health providers provide basic information on health conditions. Where did and do you look for information to learn more and stay current on hypertension control?
A: Other than simply taking the meds as advised, initially I did not take any additional steps to control hypertension. I have never been over weight, so I figured that my diet could pretty much remain the same. In addition, I rarely took a blood pressure reading and because annual physical exams didn't reveal any issues of concern, I resolved that I'd be taking the meds for the rest of my life. It's only recently that I began exploring ways to possibly reduce dependence of meds. In addition to participating in IAWH, I seek information from the internet and other creditable sources. This allows me to be better informed of what question and services to ask of my health care providers. Currently, I'm reading a book that focuses on the impact of sleep on blood pressure and on overall well being.
Q: How has your lifestyle changed since ? (What was your diet before diagnosis vs. after? Has your physical activity changed? How has your awareness and knowledge about your health changed?)
A: Until recently, I pretty much ate whatever I wanted. Since the pandemic and especially since joining IAWH my lifestyle has changed. I now start each day by walking a mile. I have become more focused on the food and drinks that I consume. Since retiring last fall, I have the time to go to farmer's markets several times a week for fresh fruits & veggies and I cook most of my food. Because of COVID concerns, I rarely eat commercial food. This allows me to know exactly what's in the food that I eat. I am more aware of actions that I need to take to improve my health.
Q: How did you learn about IAWH’s SMBP Program? What made you interested in participating? What have you gained from this program?
A: I learned about the IAWH SMBP Program on WPFW Radio. My interest was piqued in this program because of its emphasis on culturally relevant content. I especially enjoy the openness and camaraderie of the program leaders and the participants. By participating in this program, I am motivated to continue to learn more about self-care and life style adjustments that may help to maintain good health and reduce dependence on medication.
Q: How and why did you decide to do this program?
A: I initially decided to participate in this program because of the Zoom format. It seems to be the right program at the right time. I am also encouraged to participate because it introduced me to the importance of conducting daily BP readings. The daily reading helps me to monitor the impacts of foods and activity on my BP.
I believe that the future of healthcare requires that we are informed and engaged in our own wellbeing. We now live in a self-help, DIY society.
Q: Do you have an accountability partner or partners for your SMBP hypertension control efforts and/or other things about your health? If yes, do you give each other reminders? How? Give some specific examples.
A: I have frequent conversations with family members and close friends about BP and other health care issues. Examples: daily walks, sharing exercise routines, suggestions on diet and recipes, stress management strategies, and of course adhering to ongoing COVID protocol.
Q: What have you gained from participating in this SMBP program? (What knowledge has been validated? What is something new that you learned or gained?
A: I have learned so much by participating in the SMBP Program. I am ashamed of how ignorant I was about basic health care issues and how much I took for granted. I am now more focused on maintaining a healthy diet and balancing it with daily physical activity. I am more aware of recommended daily nutritional guidelines and I am diligent about reading all product labels for additives and preservatives.
Q: How are you approaching and understanding the management of our blood pressure differently now that you've been in the IAWH program?
A: I take my BP daily and use this as a guide for managing what I eat and drink. I also use it to guide my daily activities, especially in managing stress. I pay special attention to stressful situations and the impact of getting adequate sleep - both are known to raise the blood pressure. Although my BP fluctuates throughout the day, fortunately my daily readings normally fall within the 130/80 range. I shared this with my doctor last week and she indicated no concern.
Q: Where would you like to be healthwise in five years?
A: In the future, I would hope that my health is stable, without debilitating issues. I am committed to doing all that I can do to ensure that outcome. I believe that the future of healthcare requires that we are informed and engaged in our own wellbeing. We now live in a self-help, DIY society. In a strange way, perhaps this is a positive outcome of the pandemic.
Q: What advice would you give to others who may be considering, just beginning, restarting, or continuing on a health improvement or a hypertension control journey?
A: I would definitely encourage others to consider participating in this program and other programs like it. We now live in a self help society and it requires that we take ownership of improving our overall health which for me, includes managing hypertension.
Executive Directors Writer/Editor
Janine E. Payne, MPH Melissa Kluczynski, MS
Cheryl J. Thompson, M.S.P.H.