What is blood pressure?
It is the pressure of the blood in the circulatory system. Often measured for diagnosis since it relates to the force and rate of the heartbeat and the diameter and elasticity of the arterial walls. Consider it as a guide to judge the circulatory health of all age groups, even more so of the people over 50. A high pressure in people 50 years and above, signifies that they are at an increased risk of developing hypertension later in life. A little shift in pressure can ring alarming bells. High blood pressure left untreated can pave the way for getting heart disease, stroke, and chronic kidney disease. In view of this, it becomes necessary for us to understand the basics of it and also learn about the various ways of controlling it.
High blood pressure or not?
Understanding the actual process behind it is very necessary. This is because seniors are often misdiagnosed when it comes to high blood pressure. As unfortunate it may sound, but this is the truth. According to Dr. Sharon Bagman, our blood pressure changes every moment. A reading at the doctor’s office might not be the same when you measure at home. This also implies that a single reading is not enough to diagnose hypertension. Furthermore, the cutoffs for seniors are different from middle-aged individuals. Therefore, according to experts, if a correct blood pressure diagnosis needs to be made. Several readings need to be taken at specified intervals. Then an average can be drawn from the readings and correct diagnosis is made.
Usually, a reading of 120/80 mm Hg is considered to be normal. An expert panel at the America College of Cardiology recommends the following guidelines:
- For seniors aged 65–79 years, the normal is considered to be ≤ 140/90 mm Hg.
- For seniors aged 80 years and above, the normal is considered to be 140/90–145/90 mm Hg.
Causes of high blood pressure in seniors
Unfortunately, there is a lack of data on the causes of high blood pressure among the senior population. The risk factors of high blood pressure in seniors are the same as that of other age groups.
The various risk factors include
- Chronic disease of the kidneys
- Long standing history of diabetes
- Unhealthy lifestyle
- Intake of high sodium diet
The primary organs to be affected by high blood pressure are the kidneys. Also, chronic kidney disease can also result in high blood pressure. This explains the correlation of the kidneys with the circulatory health of seniors. However, regardless of the cause, having high blood pressure at old age does not mean the end of the road. Medications and a healthy lifestyle can keep the blood pressure in control.
Tips to keep blood pressure under control
Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is not difficult. And is achievable by following some of the below-mentioned tips.
- Be active
Leave the sofa and get going. Daily 30 minute of exercise is essential to maintain a healthy blood pressure. If you do not exercise daily, start with a 10-minute walk and increase your speed and time. Seniors can engage in household chores to stay active. And could also lend their hand in gardening. Ask your doctor about the exercises that best suit your age. Exercising ensures a good heart health and also keeps cholesterol under control.
- Keep salt low
Watch your sodium intake. This is one of the contributing factors for hypertension. Eating a low salt diet is essential for keeping your blood pressure under control. For keeping sodium intake to a minimum you need to limit your salt intake. Along with salt, you also need to restrict intake of processed foods. Such as sauces, ready to eat meals, etc. that contain high amounts of hidden sodium in them.
- Keep your weight under control
Being overweight or obese also increases your chances of developing hypertension. Therefore, to maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet and exercise to prevent fat deposition.
The following medications can also help keep your high blood pressure under control
- Thiazide diuretics – These are usually the first drugs to prescribe for hypertension. Thiazide diuretics works by helping the kidneys eliminate excess water, salt, and sodium.
- Beta-blockers – Beta-blockers are often prescribed along with thiazide diuretics. This class of medication works by causing the heart to beat slowly. So the pressure of the blood can be gradually decreased.
- Angiotensin-converting enzymes inhibitors – These are also often prescribed in combination with thiazide diuretics.
Usually, the drugs are prescribed in combination, so that the blood pressure can be kept to normal. However, depending on individual nature and medical history. Doctors decide the best course of action. For seniors, follow all the lifestyle changes as suggested along with regular intake of medications. This will help to keep their blood pressure under check and allow them to lead a healthy life.
About the Author
Tena Scallan is a passionate healthcare professional, business owner and published author with over 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry. She now has answers to your caregiving questions with expert advice for family caregivers.
Tena has dedicated her life’s work to working in hospitals, running her own in-home caregiving agency and providing coaching and guidance for family caregivers.
Tena firmly believes that both home and lifestyle can be preserved by in-home compassionate caregiving in the face of aging or illness. Check out her site at: http://www.theultimatecaregivingexpert.com