The National Institute of Health (NIH) notes that over half of all Americans 60 years of age or older have high blood pressure. Contrary to popular belief, however, just because you get older does not mean you should be diagnosed with hypertension. While manageable, high blood pressure can be just as life-threatening as any other medical condition, particularly since it can lead to other afflictions that older adults are at a greater risk for developing (e.g. heart disease, strokes, etc.)
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As such, taking appropriate measures to reduce your risk of high blood pressure, as well as looking to effective treatment options to manage or reduce pre-existing hypertension is critical for your long-term health. According to the Mayo Clinic, two of the most effective ways to control high blood pressure are eating well and exercising.
Does this mean elderly adults have to adhere to a strict no- or low-sodium high blood pressure diet and perform strenuous physical activity?
Certainly not! But simply cutting back on particular foods and walking for 30 minutes a day can make a world of difference in terms of regulating your blood pressure.
As you can expect, people who smoke and drink alcohol are at a much higher risk of developing hypertension. Stopping these behaviors before they contribute to a serious health condition is highly recommended.
According to NIH Senior Health, high blood pressure is most commonly found in:
- Men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55
- Individuals who are overweight/obese
- People who have a family history of hypertension
- African Americans (for whatever reason, the affliction generally occurs sooner and is more severe for this racial group)
The vast majority of people with hypertension are prescribed medication to keep the condition in check. If you are currently taking medication or plan to in the near future, knowing how to read your blood pressure chart is vital. This will help you and your physician to determine what medicine you should take and when you should be taking it. Given the dangers associated with under- or over-use, it never hurts to have a refresher course. When it comes to reading your chart, here is what you need to know:
- High blood pressure charts for the elderly are subdivided into four categories ranging from normal blood pressure to Stage 2 Hypertension.
- The top figure represents your body’s systolic number (the pressure emitted when your heart contracts) and the lower figure is its diastolic number (pressure in your arteries when your heart is at rest).
- The ideal read is at or below 120/80. Anything over this amount is indicative of high blood pressure, though the pre-hypertension phase (140-159/90-99) can be reduced with a good diet and exercise plan.
- Stage 1 Hypertension is more of a threat, but is typically manageable with a healthy lifestyle and medication.
- Stage 2 requires greater medical intervention, so speak with your doctor about what options are available.
Types of Blood Pressure Medication
There is no shortage of antihypertensives (medicines intended to reduce high blood pressure), but finding the right one for your condition can be a challenge. Here are some of the most common high blood pressure medications:
- Diuretics are pills that aid in removal of sodium and the reduction of water retention, and are usually recommended to individuals with Stage 1 high blood pressure. (Diuretics are sometimes referred to as “water pills.”)
- ACE inhibitors – Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors — lower blood pressures by widening your blood vessels. They inhibit the formation of the hormone angiotensin, which contracts the blood vessels. ACE inhibitors are commonly prescribed to persons with either Stage 1 or Stage 2 hypertension.
- Beta blockers stop specific hormone and nerve signals from reaching the heart and blood vessels, in effect preventing your body’s natural response to increase pressure. Beta blockers are also used to treat both Stage 1 and Stage 2 high blood pressure.
- Renin inhibitors suppress the enzyme, renin, that is produced by the kidneys. Renin kicks off a chain reaction within the body that increases blood pressure. This type of blood pressure medication slows the production of this enzyme. Although this type of medication is typically prescribed to individuals with Stage 2 hypertension, individuals with kidney disease or diabetes are advised against taking renin inhibitors. Additional caution should be taken with this medication due to even more serious complications, such as stroke.
It can be difficult to keep track of your high blood pressure medication, especially if you are prescribed multiple types and are required to take high doses. Always carefully read the instructions and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any and all side effects that may occur from combining medications. Your local pharmacist can prove invaluable to you by reviewing each of your medications and helping you understand how they interact with one another.