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High Blood Pressure And Older Adults

Blood Pressure: How High is Too High and How Do I Lower it Safely?

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High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major health problem that is common in older adults. Your bodys network of blood vessels, known as the vascular system, changes with age. Arteries get stiffer, causing blood pressure to go up. This can be true even for people who have heart-healthy habits and feel just fine. High blood pressure, sometimes called “the silent killer,” often does not cause signs of illness that you can see or feel. Though it affects nearly half of all adults, many may not even be aware they have it.

If high blood pressure isn’t controlled with lifestyle changes and medication, it can lead to serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease such as heart disease and stroke, vascular dementia, eye problems, and kidney disease. The good news is that blood pressure can be controlled in most people.

Causes And Risk Factors

You may be at an increased risk for high blood pressure if you smoke, areoverweight, eat a diet thats low on produce and fiber and/or high in fatand salt, drink alcohol to excess, live with chronic stress or dont getmuch physical activity. Some causes of hypertension cannot becontrolledincluding your genes and your race . Aging also plays a role. Even if you do not have hypertensionby age 55 to 65, your lifetime risk for developing it is a whopping 90percent.

But doctors no longer consider hypertension inevitable or untreatable withage, saysSamuel Durso, M.D.,director of the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at JohnsHopkins.

In one Johns Hopkins study of 975 older women and men with hypertension,healthy lifestyle steps helped 40 percent stop taking blood pressuremedications. Other research has shown that lifestyle changes can lower therisk for hypertension in African-Americans and others at an increasedgenetic risk.

Lifestyle Tips To Lower Blood Pressure

So, are you wondering how to lower blood pressure besides changing your diet? Reducing stress can lower blood pressure. Some other natural ways to lower blood pressure include getting better sleep, scheduling in more free-time and fun, surrounding yourself with encouraging friends and exercising on a daily basis.

Regular exercise and diet play a large role in the development of hypertension. Another one of the most detrimental components of the Western lifestyle is stress. Managing stress includes relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, journaling or art therapy.

You can raise your blood pressure to alarming levels just by thinking or stressing about events. Imagined events have as much physiological effect as real ones. In fact, this is the basis of post-traumatic stress disorder , and the improvement of performance in businessmen and Olympic athletic gains through visualization.

The best preventative measure to high blood pressure? A healthy lifestyle. Its common sense, really.

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What If Lifestyle Changes Dont Help Lower My Blood Pressure

If diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes dont work to lower your blood pressure, your healthcare provider will prescribe medications to help lower your blood pressure. Your provider will take into account other conditions you may have, such as heart or kidney disease and other drugs youre taking when prescribing medications to treat your high blood pressure. Be sure to follow your providers dosing directions exactly.

Follow A Healthy Diet

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A healthy diet with a variety of nutritious foods, in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines, will help keep blood pressure under control as well as your cholesterol and weight.

  • Eat 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit every day.
  • Limit your fat intake to 20 to 35% of your total energy intake. Consume healthy unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats.
  • Reduce your salt intake to fewer than 4 grams per day if you have high blood pressure. This is less than one teaspoon of salt. Salt contains sodium, which is linked to high blood pressure.

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How Can You Bring Your Blood Pressure Down Quickly

Your brain regulates blood pressure to survive in your environment. You can lower your blood pressure within a couple of minutes by activating your parasympathetic nervous system with deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or tai chi.

When your brain perceives a safe environment, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic lowers heart rate and blood pressure for digestion, healing, and rest. .

Your brain activates the sympathetic nervous system when it perceives danger, real or imaginary. Your sympathetic system raises your heart rate blood pressure to prepare your body for action.

Lowering Systolic Blood Pressure More May Cut Health Risks

One major study found that lowering systolic blood pressure to well below the commonly recommended level also greatly lowered the number of cardiovascular events and deaths among people at least 50 years old with high blood pressure.

When study participants achieved a systolic blood pressure target of 120 mmHg compared to the higher target of 140 mmHg recommended for most people, and 150 for people over 60 issues such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure were reduced by almost one-third, and the risk of death by almost one-fourth.

“That’s important information, because more lives may be saved and more deaths may be prevented if we maintain lower blood pressure in certain patients,” says Lynne Braun, NP, PhD, a nurse practitioner at the Rush Heart Center for Women.

Braun cautions, however, that your personal blood pressure target depends on a variety of things, including your current blood pressure, lifestyle, risk factors, other medications you are taking and your age. “Every person has to be evaluated as an individual,” she says. “Realistically, we can’t get everybody down to 120, and trying to do so may create unintended problems.”

It can be dangerous, for instance, to keep an older person on medications that have unsafe side effects, such as diuretics , which can cause dehydration and dizziness in older adults.

And there can be other issues involved with taking multiple medications, such as cost and compliance.

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How Can I Measure My Blood Pressure At Home

Talk with your health care team about regularly measuring your blood pressure at home, also called self-measured blood pressure monitoring.

SMBP means you regularly use a personal blood pressure measurement device away from a doctors office or hospitalusually at home. These blood pressure monitors are easy and safe to use. A health care team member can show you how to use one if you need help.

Evidence shows that people with high blood pressure are more likely to lower their blood pressure if they use SMBP combined with support from their health care team than if they dont use SMBP.3

Use these additional tips for SMBP:4

  • Use a blood pressure log pdf icon to record your blood pressure measurements.
  • Take your blood pressure at the same time every day.
  • Take at least two readings, 1 or 2 minutes apart.

How Blood Pressure Is Measured

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Hypertension can be mild, moderate or severe. Your blood pressure is naturally higher when you are exerting yourself, such as during physical exercise. It is only a concern if your blood pressure is high when you are at rest, because this means your heart is overworked and your arteries have extra stress in their walls.Blood pressure readings are a combination of two measurements. These are:

  • Systolic is the highest pressure against the arteries as the heart pumps. The normal systolic pressure is usually between 110 and 130mmHg.
  • Diastolic is the pressure against the arteries as the heart relaxes and fills with blood. The normal diastolic pressure is usually between 70 and 80mmHg.

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Do Regular Physical Activity

Regular aerobic exercise reduces blood pressure. The reductions are greater for people who start with higher blood pressure. Even relatively small increases in physical activity have been shown to lower blood pressure.

  • People aged 18-64 years should do a total of 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity activity or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous activity every week. You can achieve this in shorter periods of activity. Moderate-intensity activity includes brisk walking, golf, swimming and mowing the lawn. Vigorous activity includes jogging, aerobics, soccer, netball or fast cycling.
  • People aged 18-64 years should also do muscle strengthening exercises at least 2 days per week, such as squats, lunges, pull-ups, push-ups, lifting weights, carrying things or digging. When doing resistance exercises, its important to breathe normally and not hold your breath since this raises blood pressure.
  • People aged 65 and older should aim for some physical activity every week preferably 30 minutes of moderate intensity on most days. Any activity is better than none, and you can gradually build up to the target total.

If you experience any chest pain, palpitations or unexpected breathlessness during exercise, stop the activity and seek medical advice.

Herbs For Low Blood Pressure

Many herbal supplements and commercial beverages can cause vasoconstriction that elevates blood pressure substantially, which is why people who take medicine for high blood pressure must use caution when taking over-the-counter decongestants and supplements. Even if you are otherwise healthy, you should stop taking any supplement that produces symptoms of , such as a .

To treat symptoms of hypotension with herbs and other substances, try:

  • Caffeine

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Number Of Pregnant Women With High Blood Pressure Rises More Than Thirteenfold Since 1970 Study Finds

If not treated, high blood pressure during pregnancy can lead to a number of complications for both the mother and the baby. Hypertension can affect a mother’s kidneys and increase her risk of future heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke.

It can also increase the risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight, preeclampsia, placental abruption, cesarean delivery, and HELLP syndrome .

Managing Low Blood Pressure

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Having low blood pressure once in a while isnt likely a cause for concern.

Tell your doctor about any related symptoms. Keep a journal of your symptoms and what you were doing when they began.

This can help your doctor diagnose the cause of your low blood pressure, especially if youve tried making changes to your diet and lifestyle and still arent seeing your BP at a healthy level.

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High Blood Pressure Treatment

The best way to lower blood pressure begins with changes you can make to your lifestyle to help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe medicine to lower your blood pressure. These are called antihypertensive medicines.

The goal of treatment is to reduce your blood pressure to normal levels. Your doctor may prescribe medicine thats easy to take and has few, if any, side effects. This treatment is highly successful. If your blood pressure can only be controlled with medicine, youll need to take the medicine for the rest of your life. It is common to need more than one medicine to help control your blood pressure. Dont stop taking the medicine without talking with your doctor. Otherwise, you may increase your risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

How To Manage High Blood Pressure

It all comes down to lifestyle changes. We know the pandemic has stressed us out, cut into our sleep and most likely made us stress eat or drink a little more. Dr. Laffin says that by cleaning up our acts, we can help keep our blood pressure under control.

I typically tell people that blood pressure management is about 70% lifestyle and 30% medications. Most people who take blood pressure medicines will need to take them because blood pressure doesnt get better as we get older. But if we do the right lifestyle things getting to an ideal weight, exercising and watching dietary sodium those things can go a long way. Sleeping six to eight hours a night and moderating alcohol consumption can make a major difference as well.

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What Do Blood Pressure Readings Mean

Blood pressure readings can vary in a single person throughout the day depending on the situation. Factors such as stress, anxiety, foods are eaten , smoking or exercise can cause pressure to rise.

The American Heart Association defines normal blood pressure as less than 120/80. Elevated blood pressure ranges between 120/80 and 129/80, and high blood pressure is 130/80 and higher. In pregnancy, normal blood pressure should be below 120/80.

If your blood pressure reaches the high range, you should see your doctor about lifestyle changes, and possibly medication especially if you have other risk factors, such as diabetes or heart disease.

High blood pressure may indicate an emergency situation. If this high blood pressure is associated with chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, or back or abdominal pain, seek medical care immediately. If you are experiencing no associated symptoms with a high blood pressure reading such as this, re-check it again within a few minutes and contact your doctor or go to an emergency room if it is still high.

If your blood pressure is lower than about 100/60 you may have low blood pressure, depending on the associated symptoms. If you are unsure, check with your doctor.

Get In A Quiet Room And Calm Yourself Down

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If you are in a crowded place, shelter yourself in a quiet room immediately.

The undertone is to get away from the crowd. High BP triggers anxiety and breathlessness which needs isolation.

However, its advisable to keep a friend around just in case the situation goes out of hand.

But it is important to get away from the crowd and focus on yourself to get a hold of yourself.

Erratic heartbeat, ragged breathing, and flashes of warmth are signs of hypertension. Therefore, these are the signs you should look out for!

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Taking Your Pulse Versus Checking Your Blood Pressure

While both are indications of health, blood pressure and heart rate are two separate measurements. Learn more about the difference between blood pressure and heart rate.

Systolic is less than 120 and my diastolic is less than 80

Great job! Your blood pressure is normal. To keep your readings in this range, stick with heart-healthy habits like following a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.

Systolic is 120 129 and my diastolic is less than 80

The good news is that you dont have high blood pressure. However, your numbers fall within the Elevated category, making you more likely to develop high blood pressure unless you take action to control it. Ready to make some small changes that have big impacts? Healthy lifestyle choices are a great place to start.

Systolic is 130 139 or my diastolic is 80 89

You are in the first stage of hypertension, but there are actions you can take to get your blood pressure under control. Your doctor will speak to you about small changes that can make a big difference and other BP Raisers. In addition, monitoring blood pressure outside of the doctors office is important for BP control.

Systolic is 140 or higher or my diastolic is 90 or higher

Systolic is higher than 180 and/or my diastolic is higher than 120

Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.

Causes And Risk Factors Of High Blood Pressure

The following can increase your chances of developing high blood pressure.

Older age The risk of high blood pressure increases as you age.

According to the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey , 70 percent of adults age 65 or older have hypertension.

The risk of prehypertension and high blood pressure has been increasing in recent years in young people, too, including children and teens, possibly because of the rise of obesity in these populations.

Race High blood pressure is more common in Black American adults than in white or Hispanic American adults.

Family history Having a family history of high blood pressure increases your risk, as the condition tends to run in families.

Being overweight The more you weigh, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulating through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls. Obesity especially abdominal obesity also increases stiffness in arteries, which raises blood pressure.

Lack of physical activity People who are inactive tend to have a higher heart rate and higher blood pressure than those who are physically active. Not exercising also increases the risk of being overweight.

Dietary choices What you choose to eat can increase your risk for hypertension, including in the following ways:

Alcohol consumption Drinking more than two drinks a day for men and more than one drink a day for women may raise your blood pressure.

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How Is High Blood Pressure Treated

If you have high blood pressure, your doctor probably will want you to make some lifestyle changes . These changes alone may lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk for heart disease. If these changes do not lower your blood pressure, you may need to take medicine.

Lifestyle changes

  • Do not smoke cigarettes or use any tobacco product.

  • Lose weight if you are overweight.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables and is low in fat.

  • Limit the salt, alcohol, and caffeine you eat and drink.

  • Reduce stress.

Have Normal Blood Pressure But Live An Extraordinary Life

How to reduce the risk of high blood pressure â All 4 Women

Youre still concerned that your blood pressure is too high. And you dont want high blood pressure to disrupt your life.

Today you learned some reasons why you may have high blood pressure. And now you have some simple lifestyle changes to discuss with your healthcare provider.

Would having a powerful why or passion for something make your life more interesting? Could it also motivate you to make healthy changes that could help lower your blood pressure?

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