Overcoming Hypertension: Caroline Emerson's Story

Overcoming a health challenge: high blood pressure

Caroline Emerson, a mental health counselor at Children’s Hospital Colorado, started feeling chest pains at work. Her co-workers quickly took her blood pressure and were astonished to learn it was 197/200.

It was a hypertensive emergency and accordingly, the charge nurse on Emerson’s unit sent her to University of Colorado Hospital. The emergency department doctor diagnosed her with high blood pressure, and two days later, her PCP leveled with her.

Caroline Emerson resized

"You’re young, smart, and beautiful,” he had said. “But you need to lose weight."

Emerson also faced challenges familiar to the working adult: spending long periods of time sitting, enduring the monotony of the day and facing a plethora of sweet snacks in the break rooms.

Emerson's "aha" moment

Emerson's mom had recently undergone a kidney transplant and was diagnosed with diabetes; her doctor expressed concern that Emerson might have similar health problems.

Once Emerson realized her health was in danger, she changed her mindset and her lifestyle.

"That was my 'aha' moment," Emerson recalls. "I decided then that I was going to go to the gym and change my diet."

Simple steps to success

Emerson took a simple approach: embrace any resources available, whether it was taking the stairs, using the gym at her apartment or packing her own lunch.

She also befriended a personal trainer, spoke quarterly with a wellness coach, tried Zumba (and loves it) and began cycling classes.

"The first time I got on the scale and it said 270, I thought, 'I can do this,'" Emerson remembers.

Now that she has lost 85 pounds (and counting), Emerson wants to inspire others to join her. At her church, she recently started a fitness club, where members walk three to four miles in the neighborhood.

"[The members] actually do help keep me accountable," she says. "And it feels good when someone says, 'wow I admire your dedication.'"

In Emerson's current work unit (Children’s Colorado’s Anschutz Campus ED) her co-workers cheer her on in her health and wellness journey. And when things are slow, she walks up the stairs or she'll walk around the campus on her break.

"Children's Colorado's [Anschutz Campus] is definitely a place conducive to walking around and the walk is definitely worth it."

Over the last 16 months, Emerson has lost 85 pounds and is off all her blood pressure medication. In the future, Emerson would like to lose another 30 pounds and perhaps become a fitness instructor or a body builder.

"Just don’t stop," Emerson says when asked what advice she would give to employees. "Just keep going. Don’t stop."