More than two-thirds of adults over the age of 65 have high blood pressure. Unfortunately, even though it can increase the risk of premature death, many seniors are unaware that they have the condition.
High blood pressure or hypertension is defined as a blood pressure reading that is consistently greater than 140/90 mm Hg. High blood pressure may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and other organ damage. Many people do not know that they have high blood pressure because symptoms are not obvious. Some people with high blood pressure may experience headaches, “floaters” in the eye, facial flushing, or dizziness but some people do not have any symptoms at all and the disease must be identified by a doctor.
Disorders such as obesity and diabetes make the development of high blood pressure more likely but some lifestyle or behaviors may also increase the risk such as:
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- High sodium or low potassium diet
In many cases, high blood pressure is hereditary and most cases require the use of one or more medications. There are however, some lifestyle modifications that can help to keep the blood pressure down such as:
Eating a Healthy Diet
Eating a balanced diet with the right amount of nutrients including healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fats along with fiber is important. Complex carbohydrates and fiber will help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels which may help to control diabetes as well.
Adequate amounts of protein and limited amounts of healthy fats such as vegetable and fish oils will help give the metabolic support your elder needs to maintain activity levels. Limiting salt intake and ensuring that vegetables and fruits are a part of the diet will minimize water retention and provide vitamins essential for proper organ functioning.
Exercise can help to reduce the effects of high blood pressure by increasing the efficiency of blood pumping done by the heart. Moderate exercise can also help with weight loss if your charge is overweight as obesity is a major contributor to high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Eliminate or Reduce Smoking and Alcohol Consumption
If your senior drinks more than two alcoholic beverages a day, reducing alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Smoking should be discontinued if possible and a physician may provide assistance with smoking cessation.
The danger in high blood pressure is that it is largely a “silent” disease. You don’t notice the symptoms but damage is still occurring. This is complicated by the fact that blood pressure can be made worse by diabetes and obesity – and high blood pressure makes those conditions more deadly – a circle of danger.
In most cases, medication will be required but these modifications and any changes suggested by the elder’s physician should help to minimize damage.