High blood pressure is quite common among seniors, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored or accepted as a natural part of aging. No matter what the age of the patient, high blood pressure can and should be managed.
Blood Pressure: The What.
High blood pressure is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: your blood goes through your arteries at a higher pressure than normal. This might not seem like such a big deal, but in order to pump the blood through at a higher pressure, the heart works harder than it needs to. This can lead to heart and kidney damage, as well as blood vessel damage throughout the body.
So why does high blood pressure occur? First of all, not all high blood pressure is created equal. Often, high blood pressure is caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries due to high cholesterol levels. Without as much space for the volume of blood to move through, the blood moves through with greater force. This is considered primary high blood pressure. Secondary high blood pressure is high blood pressure that is the result of another condition, such as a kidney or thyroid problem, or that occurs as a side effect from medication. Certain medications work by narrowing blood vessels, while others might cause fluid retention, which increases blood volume. Either way, high blood pressure may be the result.
Treatment of high blood pressure will vary greatly person to person. Simple changes, like light daily exercise, losing weight, and eating a lower fat, lower-salt diet might be enough to get those numbers under control. Smoking or drinking should be avoided, since both can adversely affect blood pressure. And pay attention to your loved one’s stress level: feeling anxious has been shown to raise blood pressure. Lifestyle changes that lead to decreased blood pressure are always preferable, but if these don’t work quickly or well enough, or if the blood pressure is very high, medication may be prescribed. If the high blood pressure is due to a medication or underlying condition, switching the medication or treating the condition can be enough to take care of the problem.
How do you know if you or a loved one has high blood pressure? Often the only way to tell is to get it checked. High blood pressure often has no symptoms until blood vessels are damaged enough to cause a stroke, heart attack, or vision problem. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 or below. The first number in the reading is the blood pressure in the arteries during heartbeats, while the second number represents the pressure in the arteries between beats.
Your loved one can check their blood pressure at home with a simple system available at pharmacies. Home checks can be a good idea for those who want to check their blood pressure more often, or for those who get anxious in the doctor’s office and receive abnormally high readings as a result. But be sure to get medical advice on which blood pressure monitor to purchase, and be sure you know how to use it correctly.