Unfortunately for many seniors today, the aging process comes with several accompanying health concerns. One of the major concerns that many seniors have to deal with is high blood pressure. While it may seem like a relatively common condition, it is a serious one, and one that all seniors need to be aware of.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is most common among adults who are past middle age. While most adults are at risk for high blood pressure issues, seniors need to be even more cautious about this condition as the chances of developing hypertension becomes higher the older a person gets.
Simply put, high blood pressure is a condition in which the blood flows through the vessels at a higher pressure than normal. Blood pressure levels are used to describe the force with which the blood pushes against the blood vessel walls when the heart starts pumping blood. When blood pressure is high, it means the blood is pushing against these vessel walls much harder than it is supposed to.
There are two primary types of high blood pressure, primary and secondary. Each type comes with its own unique challenges.
Primary high blood pressure, or essential high blood pressure is the most common of the two. Typically, this type of high blood pressure develops over a course of several years and is more common in seniors. Typically, as a person ages, their blood pressure gets higher.
Secondary high blood pressure on the other hand is caused by another Medical condition. There are also certain medications that can cause secondary high blood pressure. In most situations, when the medical issue is resolved, blood pressure levels return to normal.
Why is High Blood Pressure Dangerous?
High blood pressure is a serious issue as it forces the heart to work harder than it is designed to. Over time, the excess strain on the heart can lead to several heart-related complications. The extra pressure on the arteries can also place strain on many of the organs and cause permanent issues in the brain, eyes and kidneys.
If too much pressure is placed on the walls of the arteries, then arteries can burst, much like a water balloon that is filled too high. When arteries are too narrow from plaque build-up due to high cholesterol levels, the amount of blood those arteries can handle becomes restricted. When this happens, high blood pressure can damage those arteries and even cause damage to the heart.
If not treated, high blood pressure can lead to a number of serious health issues, including:
- Heart attack
- Aneurysms in the blood vessels especially in the aorta, intestines and legs
- Brain aneurysms
- Kidney failure
- Vision changes from burst blood vessels in the eyes
- Heart failure
The longer high blood pressure is left unattended, the higher the chances are that one of these serious health issues will form. Hypertension is the most important modifiable risk factor to reduce complications. This is why it is so important for seniors to have their blood pressure monitored so they can spot potential blood pressure issues before they become too serious.
How is Blood Pressure Measured?
Most seniors do not know they have high blood pressure until they get their blood pressure levels checked. A medical professional can easily measure a person's blood pressure, and there are also many machines and stations at pharmacies that can help any senior measure their blood pressure.
When blood pressure levels are measured, there are always two numbers given; the systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure. The two numbers are written on top of one another.
The first number is the systolic pressure. This is the pressure of the blood against the walls of the artery whenever the heart beats. The diastolic pressure on the other hand is the pressure when the heart is at rest.
If a senior's systolic pressure is 100 mmHg and their diastolic pressure is 60, then their blood pressure number would be 100 over 60.
Typically, normal systolic pressure levels are below 120 mmHg and normal diastolic blood pressure levels are below 80 mmHg. While numbers higher than 120 over 80 are indicative of a problem, there are actually a few different stages used to describe hypertension issues.
Prehypertension is a term used to describe developing blood pressure issues. Typically, this includes a systolic pressure between 120 and 139 and a diastolic pressure range between 80 and 89. Typically, those with prehypertension can make lifestyle changes in order to get their numbers back down to normal.
Stage 1 Hypertension occurs when an individual has a systolic pressure range between 130-139 and a diastolic pressure range between 80-89 This is cause for concern and should be addressed by a medical professional.
Stage 2 Hypertension occurs when there is a systolic pressure range of 140 or higher and a diastolic pressure range of 90 or higher. Individuals with this high of blood pressure are at serious risk for several health issues and should seek treatment immediately.
It is normal for blood pressure levels to change throughout the day, depending on what a person is doing. This is why it is important to measure for a person's normal baseline range. This measurement should be taken when a person is sitting in a calm and comfortable position. The best way to take blood pressure measurements is seated with the back supported and legs uncrossed. Crossing your legs while taking the measurement can falsely raise your systolic pressure 5-8 mmHg. While certain activities can cause blood pressure levels to change, a senior's baseline should be within normal limits (120/80).
How to Lower Blood Pressure
If a senior has high blood pressure, they need to visit their primary care provider for assistance in lowering their blood pressure levels. While there are some prescriptions that can work to lower blood pressure levels, many times, lifestyle changes are the safest and most effective way to make lasting changes to a person's blood pressure. Even those taking blood pressure medication should include these important lifestyle changes are part of their regimen.
These lifestyle changes include:
- Embracing a low-calorie, natural diet
- Limiting processed foods
- Cutting out sodium from the diet
- Managing stress and keeping stress levels low
- Getting at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular per day
- Cutting back on caffeine consumption
- Maintaining a healthy body weight, particularly around the waistline
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Maintaining an active lifestyle
- Quitting smoking
Positive lifestyle changes such as this can go a long way in helping any senior achieve, and maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
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