Under Pressure: The Importance of Blood Pressure in Older Adults
According to the CDC, one in every three adults has high blood pressure. As people age, the likelihood of developing high blood pressure increases. In fact, 64% of men and nearly 70% of women aged 65-74 have high blood pressure. For those 75 and over, the risk increases to 66.7 and 78.5 percent, respectively.
Blood pressure is the force of blood against artery walls as it circulates through the body. A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg. Many people are unaware that they have high blood pressure, as there are no visible symptoms. High blood pressure increases the risk for several dangerous health conditions, including heart attack, stroke, chronic heart failure and kidney disease.
If you or your loved one is at risk for high blood pressure, take these steps:
- Monitor your numbers. The AHA recommends that those at risk check blood pressure twice daily. Record those numbers and discuss them with your health care provider regularly.
- Take your medicine. A surprising number of people on hypertension medicine quit taking it once their blood pressure lowers. It’s lower for a reason: the medicine is working. NEVER reduce or quit a medication without your doctor’s approval.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increase blood pressure. Reducing or stopping this habit will help with blood pressure and other conditions.
- Limit alcohol. A small amount of alcohol can lower blood pressure, but drinking more than recommended exacerbates many conditions, including hypertension. Any alcohol intake should be discussed with a physician, as it can interfere with medication.
- Limit sodium. Even a small reduction in sodium can help. Don’t add salt, and watch labels for added sodium.
- Eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight. Watching what you eat, and even writing it down, can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of disease.
- Be active. Getting 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week can lower blood pressure significantly.
- Calm yourself. It’s impossible to avoid all of life’s stressors. Instead, focus on deep breathing at least twice daily and also when confronting stress. Consider yoga, meditation, prayer, or other stress-reducing activities.
- Don’t go it alone. All of these changes can be difficult to maintain on your own. Ask for help, get a buddy to get healthy with you, or reach out for professional support; do whatever it takes to maintain your health.
Don’t take hypertension lightly, in yourself or your aging loved one. Keep an open dialogue with health care providers, and live a healthier, longer life with those you love.