Hypertension aka High Blood Pressure is determined by a pressure reading of 140/90 or higher. Both of these numbers are important. “Normal” pressure readings are 120/80, with lower numbers being better, but bordering on too low can be a cause for other concerns such as dizziness and falling. For seniors with frail bones this can be very dangerous.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. Pressure is at its highest when the heart beats, pumping blood (known as systolic pressure – the first # in your reading). When the heart is at rest, between beats, the blood pressure falls (known as diastolic pressure – the second # in your reading).
High blood pressure results in the heart working harder, arteries are challenged and become thicker not allowing the blood to flow and your chances of stroke or heart attack increase and possible kidney problems arise.
Risk factors for high blood pressure are as follows:
Over weight – poor diets such as those consisting of processed foods, high in trans fats, sodium and sugar, low in fruits & vegetables and high in animal fats all contribute to heart disease. If you consume anything with a label on it, aim for a sodium intake of not more than 2000mg/daily (which is approximately a teaspoon) and beware of labels claiming low fat as they are typically higher in sugar.
Diet: Opt for fresh fruits, a variety of vegetables, cold water fish and avoid trans fats such as baked goods and fast foods.
Lack of activity/living a sedentary lifestyle: Aim for 30 – 60 minutes, 4-5 days/week of walking, jogging, cycling, swimming – these activities are more effective vs weight training exercises at keeping the heart healthy. Keep the body active to allow the blood to flow freely.
Smoking & regular alcohol consumption: it goes without saying that smoking should be eliminated and keep alcohol consumption in the moderate range being no more than 1 beer or 5 oz of wine or 1.5oz of spirits daily. I knew a man who loved his alcohol and he would save up the daily limit and consume it all on the weekend! …guess what, between the alcohol and poor diet, he eventually passed away from a heart attack. Be cautious also as medications and alcohol often do not mix well!
Family history – unfortunately you cannot change this, however, you can do everything possible to change your lifestyle to include the suggestions above. Persons with diabetes may require medication to keep blood pressure at a normal level.
Stress! – do what it takes to eliminate as much stress as possible from your life. Talk to a trusted friend or church member if your mind is dealing with troublesome issues, be sure to exercise the body to keep the blood flowing, practice deep breathing techniques (you would be surprised how we hold our breath when we are stressed).
Hypertension is the silent killer without specific symptoms, so it is important to have your pressure checked at regular intervals.
Drug stores have blood pressure monitors at the pharmacy area to check readings without having to book an appointment to see a Doctor. For those tech savvy seniors, to avoid white coat syndrome when pressure is taken at a Doctor’s office, check out our Health Espresso app that can track your blood pressure for you and will even remind you to take your medications!