Nearly one in three Americans suffer from hypertension, or high blood pressure, and millions more will be diagnosed this year. High blood pressure is a serious condition that can lead to health issues like heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and more. Most people who have high blood pressure actually feel just fine and may not even be aware of their condition. This is why hypertension is often called “the silent killer”.
Why Seniors Should be Concerned about Blood Pressure
As we age, it’s common for our blood pressure to rise. In fact, the older you are, the more at risk you become for hypertension. A normal blood pressure reading for most adults is 120/80; however, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that for adults age 65 to 79 a healthy reading is 140/90 or less, and those over 80 years of age should be around 140/90 or 145/90. Even those with healthy blood pressure at age 50 have a 90% chance of developing hypertension in their later years.
What do those numbers mean? The first number is called systolic blood pressure, and this is the pressure caused by your heart pushing out blood. The second number, the diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure when your heart fills with blood. Systolic hypertension occurs when the arteries close to the heart begin to stiffen, causing them to be less responsive to blood flow.
High blood pressure for seniors can lead to health complications and damage in the blood vessels and organs. The longer high blood pressure goes uncontrolled, the greater the damage it can cause.
How to Lower Blood Pressure
There are certain risk factors associated with high blood pressure that you can’t change, such as your age, family history, gender (before age 55, men have a higher risk of high blood pressure, while women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after menopause), and race. However, you can control your blood pressure by making some lifestyle changes, such as:
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, you’re more at risk for hypertension. Even just losing 10 pounds can help lower your blood pressure.
- Make healthy food choices. Cutting out processed foods and eating a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy products can lower your blood pressure.
- Exercise 30 minutes every day. Consistent exercise helps lower your blood pressure. Try to get around 30 minutes of physical exercise most days of the week. You can walk, swim, jog, go for a bike ride- anything that gets your heart rate up.
- Get a good night’s sleep. If you find you’re having trouble sleeping and are snoring or even feel like you stop breathing for a few moments at a time, talk to your doctor. Sleep apnea can put you at higher risk for hypertension.
- Lower your sodium intake. Most Americans consume far more salt than we need. Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can help reduce your blood pressure levels.
- Cut out alcohol. Men and women age 65 or older should drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per day. Excessive alcohol intake plays a role in high blood pressure.
- Quit smoking. Each cigarette you smoke can increase your blood pressure for several minutes after you finish. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about effective ways to quit.
Along with these lifestyle changes, if you’re already on medication to help manage your high blood pressure, make sure to take it regularly. Don’t take more than your doctor prescribed, and don’t stop taking your medication unless your doctor tells you to do so. Try to take your medication at the same time every day, and if you do skip a day, don’t double the dose the next day.
For more information about American Senior Communities, please visit www.ASCSeniorCare.com.