Profile of Hope: Tony Hillery—how finding out that he was pre-hypertensive changed his life

Editor September 11th, 2013

Tony Hillery, the founder of Harlem Grown, an independent, non-profit organization that transforms abandoned community gardens and lots into vibrant urban farms in partnership with local public schools and the community. While he has spent the past two years, teaching children about healthy lifestyles in Harlem through Harlem Grown, in the Summer of 2012 Tony realized that his own health was not very good as he found out he had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Faced with the need to take medicine, he decided to change his diet instead. Here, Tony discusses the events that made him realize the necessity of a healthy lifestyle.

Q: Can you tell us about yourself?
A: I am 53 years old and in generally good health. Before I learned that I had high blood pressure (Hypertension) I weighed 223 pounds. I was always sort of thick so the weight never bothered me. However, while I was unaware that I was sick, I did feel bad a lot. For instance, I was often lethargic, my joints and knees and ankles would hurt, and I was always tired. But I didn’t really notice these  think of myself as unhealthy until my doctor told me I had a serious health problem.

Q: What was your doctor’s visit like when you were diagnosed with high blood pressure?
A: I go to the doctor for a checkup every year, but last year (2012) she told me that I had pre-hypertension. I was really scared, that is a very strong word. She was ready to write me a prescription for medication. This idea of taking medication for the rest of my life made me feel really old, I didn’t want pill boxes like my mother, my grandparents. In my mind once you start those drugs you’re on them for life. I knew that I didn’t want medicine for the rest of my life. I wanted an alternative. I asked my doctor to give me three months to bring my blood pressure and cholesterol down before I started the medicine.

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