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Ageing and blood pressure, and 7 ways to manage it

Ageing and blood pressure, and 7 ways to manage it

Ageing and high blood pressure is a common health issue with many misconceptions. There are many controversies surrounding this topic and considerable difference of opinion regarding the diagnosis and treatment of this disorder.

What is Blood Pressure?

3The heart pumps blood through blood vessels by creating a pressure, and this pressure is created in a pulsatile manner with each heart beat. The higher pressure created by the heart beat is called the Systolic blood Pressure and the blood continues to flow at a lower pressure called the Diastolic blood pressure.

Why is Blood pressure called the “silent killer”?

We know that a persistent high blood pressure causes an increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure etc and yet for the most part the person is unaware of the high blood pressure since there are no symptoms.

6How is High Blood Pressure diagnosed?

You may have your blood pressure taken in a doctor’s office, or a clinic or one of the camps that are held regularly in the community. Blood pressure higher than 140/90 (one or both numbers) would be called Hypertension. (High blood pressure). Sometime a blood pressure between 120-140 would be labelled as pre-hypertension as this level puts you at a higher risk of developing hypertension.

What Do the Numbers Mean?

Systolic
(first number)

Diastolic
(second number)

Normal Blood Pressure

Less than 120

Less than 80

Prehypertension

Between 120–139

Between 80–89

High Blood Pressure

140 or more

90 or more

Isolated Systolic Hypertension

140 or more

Less than 90

Is there such a thing as low blood pressure? Yes there is. This will make you feel weak, lightheaded or dizzy. This usually happens when the person has been very ill and bed ridden, dehydrated, blood loss or due to medications.

image4What can you do about blood pressure? There are some risk factors that can be changed and some that can’t be changed.

  • Age:  blood pressure rises with age. There are many reasons for this but still the answer for it is that we do not know.
  • Gender: Men have a higher tendency to have hypertension before the age of 55 and women seem to have the edge on this account after menopause.
  • Family history: This is obvious. People with a strong family history of hypertension have a higher risk.
  • Race: Afro-Americans have a high incidence of hypertension. We do not know if this has something to do with change in diet, social stresses or other variables.

7How can I control my blood pressure:
1) Keep a healthy weight. Blood pressure rises with weight gain. Obesity is a high value risk factor. Then again weight loss has been shown to have a potent effect on lowering blood pressure.

2) Exercise: Mild exercises (aerobics) leading up to moderate exercises for at least 30 mins a day will lower your blood pressure by almost 10 points. Caution: consult your physician before embarking on an exercise regime. The pro in the gym is not the ideal person to advice you on the intensity of exercise appropriate for you.

3) Diet: Much has been said about the importance of a healthy nutritious diet. In a nutshell staying on a diet of whole grains, fruits and vegetables with low fat dairy products topped up with various nuts is recommended as a general rule. People with associated problems such as diabetes or allergies may have to modify their diet.

4) Salt: High intake of salt has been linked to high blood pressure. We tend to classify people in the salt sensitive and the salt insensitive cohorts but as a general rule low salt intake is recommended.

5) Alcohol: Various thought on this subject is available in the press. For certain a person with uncontrolled blood pressure should avoid alcohol. In a stable situation a small quantity of alcohol does not do any harm. Some authorities claim that the alcohol may even help in lowering blood pressure but that claim has no basis in literature.

6) Smoking: Smoking is injurious to your health and is a risk for raising your blood pressure.

7) Lifestyle changes: The constant stress of modern life is a definite risk factor for high blood pressure. While unavoidable the effects can be mitigated by getting some quite time for yourself, yoga or meditation have been shown to lower blood pressure.

Some additional facts:

  • High blood pressure is serious business. You may have no symptoms until the day when catastrophe strikes.
  • You can make a difference by changing your life style, diet, alcohol intake, smoking habit etc.
  • Chances are that sooner or later your doctor will prescribe some medicines. Try to deal with your blood pressure with life style changes but do not delay therapy as the longer you wait the more damage is done to your body.
  • Even if you take medicines lifestyle changes are essential.
  • The target blood pressure should be <120. To achieve this with minimal side effects of the medicines chances are that your doctor will prescribe more than one medicine.
  • Be sure to have a list of medicines and previous diagnosis for your doctor for him to choose the right medicine for you. This list should include vitamins and other supplements that you might be using.
  • Blood pressure medicines should be taken at the same time of the day usually first thing in the morning. Do not take more than the prescribed amount.
  • Make sure you have a list of medicines on hand if you are going to the hospital and especially if you are heading for surgery.
  • Should you self monitor: Definitely yes. Make sure your technique is right. Your body positioning and arm positioning are as they should be. Do keep a running record of your blood pressure along with the time of the day when it was taken and any other significant occurrence at the time the blood pressure was taken.

Written by Dr. Satish Chawla MD, FACP, AIIMS, who is a retired Geriatric Physician from the United States Navy. He is an expert in geriatric medicine, and on Samvedna’s panel of experts.


Samvedna Senior Care –

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Our At-Home Care Services for General Wellbeing aim to raise the quality of life of seniors through a monthly interactive programme in the comfort of their home. Our senior care specialists, who are trained psychologists and gerontologists, keep them active and engaged through physical, mental and social activities. The activities include intellectual companionship, mind stimulation activities like puzzles and crosswords, playing games, dancing and singing, social outings for coffee or mall and more.
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