Open Accessibility Menu

Managing Blood Pressure is a Must for Older Adults

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler
Managing Blood Pressure is a Must for Older Adults

If you are age 65 or older, there's an exceedingly good chance that you have high blood pressure. That's because more than 70 percent of American adults in this age category have high blood pressure, and that sky-high statistic brings with it increased risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, peripheral arterial disease, kidney disease, and an array of additional adverse health consequences. In fact, about:

  • Seven of every 10 people having their first heart attack have high blood pressure.
  • Eight of every 10 people having their first stroke have high blood pressure.
  • Seven of every 10 people with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure.

If high blood pressure is not diagnosed and treated, the consequences can be catastrophic, including:

  • Aneurysms can form in the heart's main artery, in the brain, legs, and intestines. If an aneurysm bursts, the result can be fatal.
  • Blood vessels in the kidneys can narrow and lead to kidney failure.
  • Blood vessels in the eyes can bleed or burst, which can cause blindness.

May is High Blood Pressure Education Month, so ATRIO Health Plans is working to increase awareness – particularly among older adults – about the importance of maintaining healthy blood pressure.

Are You at Risk?

Men who are overweight, above age 45 and with a family history of high blood pressure, along with women who are overweight, older than 55 and have a family history of high blood pressure, are at the greatest risk for developing this potentially very dangerous condition.

A host of lifestyle factors also can result in high blood pressure, including:

  • Consuming too much salt.
  • Drinking alcohol excessively.
  • Having a diet insufficient in potassium.
  • Failing to exercise regularly.
  • Experiencing long-term stress.
  • Being a smoker.

Maintaining a Healthy Blood Pressure

While high blood pressure does pose potentially lethal health threats, it simultaneously is a condition that often can be controlled by making relatively small lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Adhering to a heart-healthy diet that minimizes salt and maximizes consumption of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat meats as well as dairy products. Experts recommend keeping salt consumption to no more than one-quarter teaspoon per day. By comparison, the average American eats about four teaspoons of salt daily.
  • Staying at the recommended weight for your height.
  • Exercising at least 30 minutes each day. For older adults, daily walks can be beneficial, as can engaging in household chores.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Limiting alcohol intake.

For some people, lifestyle changes alone won't bring their blood pressure into normal range. In these instances, medication will likely be prescribed. Fortunately, there are many medications to treat high blood pressure that have long track records for both safety and effectiveness.

Of course, medication can only be effective if it's taken precisely as outlined in the prescription. It also is crucial to never abruptly – and without physician guidance – stop taking high blood pressure medication. Doing so can result in extremely serious medical issues.

If you haven't had your blood pressure taken recently, that is the most important first step, and Blood Pressure Education Month is an ideal time to start proactively managing your health.