Jeffery McNeil writes about health and nutrition in his latest piece for Street Sense Media. Photo by Will Schick.

Being middle-aged, I have always been an active person. However, six months ago, I felt fatigued. Getting out of bed felt like a chore. Being incapacitated made things worse because I felt, depressed, played video games or slept all day.

I’ve always been a tough guy and worked through the pain. But finally, I collapsed and wound up in the emergency room. When they took my blood pressure, the nurse said it was very high.

High blood pressure runs in my family, it killed my mother, several relatives and paralyzed my brother. According to the American Heart Association, About 55% of Black adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

The good news: while having high blood pressure, my internal organs are healthy and I don’t need stints or pacemakers. The saving grace for me was giving up drinking and smoking because if I continued, I wouldn’t be here writing this column.

Having high blood pressure is genetic. I have to live with it, but it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. As with drinking and smoking, I don’t have to fight this battle by myself, I want to share my story with others before they have a heart attack, stroke or have to wear a pacemaker.

Every day is a battle. Life changes. 

While my blood pressure isn’t where it was, it’s better than it used to be. Health is linked to what you eat. Before I had my minor heart attack, I lived on Popeyes, drank soda and my diet consisted of Wawa and Dunkin Donuts.

I loved Mcdonald’s but burgers and shakes are not healthy. While it is impossible to cut back on everything, I try to keep garlic, beets, grilled chicken and salmon in my diet. I learned to use a blender to not make it boring.

Exercise and dieting don’t have to be a chore – but fun. 

As with many I would diet and exercise then quit before the results happen. I was trying to compete rather than work at my own pace. We all are athletes but you need to find a sport you enjoy.

I hate lifting weights but love to fish and boat. Fishing is a good way for me to exercise. I will walk three to five miles searching for fish without thinking about it.

I have to accept at 55, I’ll never be on the cover of men’s workouts but I can wake up feeling good about myself by eating right and doing the minimum amount of activity.