Managing your blood pressure is an essential part of wellness, especially for senior health. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major health concern, and it affects 3 out of 4 people aged 75 and older. High blood pressure creates an increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and other illnesses. What makes it especially dangerous is that you may not be aware of the high blood pressure since there are no symptoms, which is why it is often called the “silent killer”.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as it circulates through the body and is measured in millimeters of mercury, shown as 120/80 (this is read as 120 over 80). The first number is the systolic blood pressure, and it reflects the force with which the blood hits the walls of the arteries. The second number is the diastolic blood pressure, and it reflects the pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxed. High blood pressure, or hypertension, happens when the blood flows through blood vessels at higher than normal pressure (140/90 or higher).
In general, it is better to have low blood pressure. However, if it drops down to lower levels, you may feel dizzy or lightheaded. It is very important to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
A few facts to keep in mind: Blood pressure rises with age, and family history plays a part – if your family has hypertension, you are at risk.
How to control it?
To control your blood pressure, have it checked by a doctor and discuss the extent of your treatment. Avoid food, exercise, caffeine, and smoking for at least an hour before blood pressure measurement, for more accurate reading.
In most cases, your blood pressure will improve by following these steps:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a risk factor for high blood pressure. Follow a healthy diet with limited amounts of animal fat. Choose fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Watch your sodium (salt) intake.
- Don’t smoke.
- Exercise regularly. Exercising for 30 minutes a day will lower your blood pressure by about 10 points.
- Engage in relaxation exercises such as yoga or meditation to minimize stress.
Even if you see an improvement, don’t take it for granted. Your blood pressure should be monitored on a regular basis.