Hypertension or known as high blood pressure is one of the most common medical conditions in older adults. It is when your blood pressure measures higher than normal. Although your blood pressure changes during and after physical activities, if it's constantly measured above the normal blood pressure range, you are most likely to be diagnosed with hypertension.
As people age, the systems of blood vessels usually change and become prone to stiffness. This is the reason why blood pressure increases, leading to hypertension. People suffering from hypertension sometimes don't know they already have the condition since it doesn’t usually show any signs. That’s the reason why it’s essential to regularly check your blood pressure with a doctor or at home to catch and treat it early.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure refers to the pressure in your arteries as the heart pumps and pushes blood against the arterial walls. In measuring blood pressure, there are two numbers involved which are:
- Systolic pressure - This is the pressure developed when your heart pumps blood throughout your blood vessels and arteries.
- Diastolic pressure - This on the other hand is the pressure when the heart is at rest in between beats.
In measuring blood pressure, the number above is the systolic pressure, and below it is the diastolic pressure. Below are the classification of blood pressure levels:
- Normal blood pressure - The normal blood pressure for adults is a systolic pressure of 120 or below and a diastolic pressure of 80 or less.
- Low blood pressure - Low blood pressure is also known as hypotension and it occurs when your systolic pressure measures below 90 and your diastolic pressure below 60. People with this condition may feel dizzy and lightheaded which is usually caused either by blood loss, medications, or lack of fluids.
- Elevated blood pressure - This happens when systolic pressure is between 120 and 129 and a diastolic pressure of less than 80.
- High blood pressure (stage 1) - High blood pressure or hypertension is when your systolic pressure reaches 130 - 139 and your diastolic pressure is above 80.
- High blood pressure (stage 2) - This is a more severe case of hypertension when your systolic pressure reaches 140 and above and a diastolic pressure of 90 and above.
- Hypertensive crisis - If your high blood pressure measures 180/120 mm Hg, this is already considered an emergency and needed urgent medical attention.
Hypertension is considered a “silent killer” as it doesn’t involve any signs or symptoms. However, if symptoms do occur, you may experience any of the following:
- Frequent headaches
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Nose bleeds
- Vision changes
In severe cases of hypertension, the patient may experience:
- Chest pain
- Muscle tremors
Symptoms may vary from person to person. To confirm if you have hypertension, it’s crucial to consult your doctor.
Certain habits and medical conditions can increase your risk of Hypertension. Some conditions that make you more susceptible to hypertension are:
- Kidney disease
- Thyroid issues
- Metabolic syndrome
Other risk factors of hypertension include:
- Age - As you age, many changes happen in your body, including the cardiovascular system. That’s why older people have a higher risk of getting hypertension than younger people.
- Race - Studies revealed that African and black people including Asians, Hispanics, American Indians, and Native Alaskans have a higher risk of hypertension compared to white people.
- Family history - Genetics also plays a vital role in getting hypertension. If members of your family have hypertension, there is a higher possibility you will eventually get the disease as you get older too.
- Gender - Multiple studies have revealed that women are more likely to develop high blood pressure than men, especially after the menopausal stage.
These factors are non-modifiable, meaning you cannot change or reverse them because it’s already innate in you. However, If there are non-modifiable risk factors, there are also modifiable ones:
- Unhealthy diet - Eating an unhealthy diet full of sodium/salt and cholesterol may increase your risk of developing hypertension.
- Lack of exercise - Living a sedentary life with little or no physical activity will certainly make you susceptible to hypertension. Establishing a workout routine at least 2-3 times a week will help keep your blood vessels and blood flow healthy. Additionally, cholesterol is one of the culprits of hypertension, but enough exercise will help regulate cholesterol levels in your body.
- Excessive alcohol intake - Many researchers have proven that excessive intake of alcohol can increase your risk of hypertension, especially in women. That’s why doctors always advise you to take your vice in moderation.
- Cigarette smoking - Cigarettes contain nicotine, a substance that can damage blood vessels and increase carbon dioxide in the body. This will make it hard for your body to increase the oxygen needed by your blood to carry.
Untreated hypertension will take a toll on your heart. As the arteries continue to harden, the flow of blood and oxygen will be negatively affected causing chest pain, heart attack, heart failure, and irregular heartbeats, which over time may lead to death.
There are many medications for hypertension, and finding the right one depends on your age, blood pressure measurement, and severity of your condition. It’s crucial to talk to your doctor about the most suitable medication for you.
Some medicines that doctors may prescribe include:
- Diuretics - These medications work by eliminating excess sodium and water in the body. Diuretics are usually the first treatment option for high blood pressure. Chlorthalidone and hydrochlorothiazide are just a few examples.
- Calcium channel blockers - These kinds of drugs work by relaxing blood vessels to slow down the heart rate. Diltiazem and Amlodipine are examples of calcium channel brokers.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors - ACE inhibitors like captopril, benazepril, and lisinopril help relax the blood vessels by eliminating the chemicals that cause the narrowing of blood vessels.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) - Known examples of ARBs are losartan and candesartan. Its function is nearly similar to ACE inhibitors wherein it stops the action of certain chemicals that are responsible for the narrowing of blood vessels.
In more severe and persistent cases of hypertension, other prescription medications include Alpha blockers, Alpha-beta blockers, Beta-blockers, Renin inhibitors, Vasodilators, Central-acting agents, and Aldosterone antagonists.
Hypertension Prevention Tips
- Eat healthily - One of the major tips in reducing your risk of getting hypertension is to establish a healthy diet. One of the reasons why people get hypertension is too much cholesterol and sodium. To maintain a healthy heart, make sure to include lots of fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich foods in your diet. It’s also important to cut off fatty and salty foods as they are one of the culprits of hypertension.
- Keep yourself physically active - Keeping up with an exercise routine will help improve your cardiovascular health. Not only that, exercise helps you sweat out those extra calories to maintain a healthy, normal weight.
- Maintain normal weight - Being overweight and obese are linked to the development of hypertension. This is due to high levels of cholesterol in the body. Thus, it’s important to monitor your weight at least once a week. Along with proper diet and exercise, you’ll be able to keep yourself away from hypertension.
- Get adequate sleep - Sleep is essential for one’s overall health. Studies also revealed that getting enough sleep contributes to a healthy cardiovascular system and that lack of it can trigger high blood pressure, stroke, and other heart diseases.
- Avoid vices like smoking and drinking - Aside from hypertension, drinking and smoking are also the culprits of lung and liver problems. That’s the reason why it’s important to quit or limit engaging in these kinds of activities. Though it’s okay to drink once in a while, it must always be in moderation.
One of the main causes of death is Hypertension. You may not notice or feel its presence, but you’ll never know when it will severely attack your system. That’s why either young or old, it’s important to always attend regular check-ups and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I hope this article helped you have a deeper understanding of hypertension among older adults.